Photographer Brooke Holm is a homegrown artist on the rise. To date, her commercial and fine-art photography has been published in Australian and international publications including Trendland, AD Spain, Vogue Living and Belle. Recently, her work has taken her to locations as far as the Arctic.
Holm revealed her most recent project, Salt and Sky, at Smith Street’s Modern Times on Thursday night. The intriguing series of photographs, loaded with vibrant pastel colours, painterly textures and almost perfect lines is shot from above, over the landscapes of Western Australia’s UNESCO heritage site Shark Bay.
Salt flats, ocean beds and harvest fields feature, but they’re captured by Holm in a way that forces you to question whether or not what you’re looking at is actually a real place on Earth.
Salt and Sky will be Holm’s last Melbourne exhibition for a while. We caught up with her for a chat about the series and her plans.
Broadsheet: What made you choose Shark Bay for this project?
Brooke Holm: Shark Bay popped onto my radar when I realised I was going to Western Australia for Christmas in 2015. A trusty friend of mine is Google Earth and when I was panning across the area I discovered some incredible textures and colours and I had to know more about it.
BS: Describe the location? What do you love most about it?
BH: The location of Shark Bay is one of a handful of places in the entire world that represent four of 10 qualifying categories for World Heritage listing by UNESCO. The salt ponds of Useless Loop are in the same area but are excluded from this World Heritage site, being that its essentially a salt mine for export. While the colours, shapes and patterns of the entire area is captivating and aesthetically astounding, there is also the threat of industrialisation and the expansion of such an operation which would endanger current marine life habitat and take from the overall protected area of Shark Bay. Aesthetics play a huge part in my fascination with the place, but also the interaction of humans with nature and the effects we have on our environment. It’s fascinating, concerning, and is something I am delving deeper into with my work and research.
BS: What are you aiming to portray or represent with Salt and Sky?
BH: My photography will always represent the aesthetic integrity of a place, no matter if its subject to human intervention or not. What is important to me is to show a place in its glory and capture its best angles in the best light. Because what would procure more interest and research into the background of the image if not the stunning beauty of it? I can tell stories through an image and I have a lot to say. I am drawn to images that make me feel something, and some of it may be beautiful, but also disheartening in terms of what it means for the planet and our future. I’m a documenter, an observer, I have my opinions and deep concerns but I am also still learning, just like every one else.
BS: Describe the process of an aerial shoot. How does it make you feel, shooting from such great heights?
BH: This time I was fortunate because I chartered a plane where I could hang out an open window. There’s nothing worse than a huge piece of glass in your way. When I’m up there I almost forget that I am flying because I’m so focused on getting the shots I need. Though when I stop for a moment, I always feel free. I feel like everyone needs to see what I’m seeing. I definitely don’t take it for granted. And luckily I have always loved heights and new perspectives.
BS: What did you learn from this project?
BH: I learned more about the history of Shark Bay, and what happens in the process of the salt mines and where it ends up. I didn’t realise that Western Australia produced such a sizeable percentage and one of the highest qualities of salt for both chemical and human consumption. It’s a huge trade. It was also interesting to learn about what kind of effects the mine has on the surrounding environment and marine life.
BS: You’re heading off to NYC after this exhibition – what’s planned?
BH: New York has always been a ‘one day’ plan of mine. I’m lucky because I’m a dual citizen and I can just pack up and go whenever I want. I’ll be travelling for about seven weeks prior to settling there, so I will get my nature fix and then try and make it in that crazy place. I’m excited for the potential to have some challenging jobs that push the boundaries creatively. And my artwork will always be a priority for me so exhibiting there is a must.
BS: Your next exhibition/project will be …
BH: I’m heading back to the northern parts of the world in the Arctic Circle before I settle into New York and I have some ideas up my sleeve. I’m excited to see new places and learn and share what I can from them. Stay tuned.
Salt and Sky will be showing at Modern Times (311 Smith Street, Fitzroy) until July 7.