I posted a couple of weeks back about the Alan (Curly) Hartup Exhibition at Newstead.
We took the time to drive up for the day, (well actually we stayed up for about a week, but that will become clear as more posts are placed).
Alan Hartup was, for those who are interested, a remarkable local identity at Newstead. He ran the local service station and so came into contact on a daily basis with most of the locals. His other passions included photography and wildlife.
I had the good fortune, almost serendipitous luck, to have worked with him at several photographic conventions and national and international judging panels over the years. But always that infectious smile and the humble ability to take the time to listen to questions and help the person find the answer around them would lead to marvellous personal discoveries. In the bush he was the consummate bushman. I’ve travelled the scrub over the years with many fine bushmen(and women), but none I think rivalled his ability to find, to read, to take note of, to ponder, to investigate and to tread carefully across a landscape as Curly.
He worked in a time of slow ISO (ASA in those days), black and white film, and colour film that had impossible slow speeds. Think 50ISO agfapan.
No mulitburst, nor long focal length lenses for Curly. His work was patient, persistent and thorough. A nest might take days to set up a hide, to wait for the light, to brave the elements and to wrestle with cameras, tripods, flash units and cables that were built by little elves with a weird sense of humour. And 12 exposures on the beat-up Mamyia C33 was your lot mate! Still.
In the end it was never the photo to Curly it was the story of the bird.
Seeing his work harmonising together on the wall the other day as a body of work, (not of course his complete story), it was quite astonishing to come to the realisation that in a visual way Curly exemplified much of what Jon Young calls ‘building the thread’ It’s based on the story of the Kalahari bushman who says that each time he sees a bird a small thread is established which grows to be a large rope connecting both man and bird.
Curly’s pictures are a visible expression of that thread. The amazing story of the Wedge-tailed Eagle with the damaged wing. The intimate portrait of the Rufous Fantail at nest. The exquisite shots of the Possum taken from his living room while watching tv!! The stunning find of the White-browed Babbler on a nest. A bird for most who now walk the Newstead forest areas have yet to see in the area.
Complete involvement. Can’t be taught has to be experienced.
We had, that morning, early before the sun was up, enjoyed the company of a pair of White-faced Herons and their three delightful young on the nest. We’d moved locations to be entertained by White-browed Scrubwrens several of which were happy to feed not only at my feet but alongside my elbow resting on a log for support. To stare into those little bright eyes and ponder the intelligences going on in there. And then just before we went to the exhibition opening; to be enamoured by a pair of White-throated Treecreepers (See EE on Flickr for those – see here), as they worked hard on a tiny opening in a tree to provide their soon coming family with a safe secure home. Building threads. Surely the reason we’d travel that distance.
So what a thrill it was to take the time to enjoy again the work of such a man, and to enjoy the stories that he wanted to tell.
More power to Geoff Park (he of Natural Newstead blogsite – see here), and the Hartup family for bringing together such a body of work for a new generation of photographers to enjoy, and more importantly to experience.
Here few shots of the day under the old Railway Station at Newstead. What a great way to use the building and what a pleasure to have been part of a bustling crowd that filled the platform and gave a small feel of what it might have been like as new and old stories were played out.
And there over it all, the portraits that said so much about Alan Hartup and his care for the lives of the creatures.