Rock Island Bend by Peter Dombrovskis
Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania
Printed with pigment ink on Canson Platine Fibre Rag, 100% Cotton Rag archival paper. Remastered by fine art printer, Simon Olding, exclusively for Wild Island Tasmania.
Peter’s most iconic image, Rock Island Bend was the defining symbol of the successful campaign to prevent the damming of the Franklin River for hydro-electric development. The image was used as a full-page advertisement in major Australian newspapers in the lead-up to the pivotal 1983 Federal election with the caption “Could you vote for a party that would destroy this?” The Franklin river runs through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in the northern area of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It was named after Sir john Franklin who was governor of Tasmania from 1836-1843.
The Save the Franklin campaign was a defining moment in Tasmanian and Australian history. In 1978, the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission proposed a dam on the Franklin River. There was initial enthusiasm for the scheme, mostly based on the anticipated economic windfall. However, environmental protesters, many of whom had been activists during the Lake Pedder campaign, started to lobby the public interest. Peter Dombrovskis’s and Olegas Truchanas’s photos were pivotal in bringing Tasmania’s remote wilderness to the wider public. In 1980, 10,000 people marched through the streets of Hobart in protest to the construction of the dam. This remains the largest political rally in the history of Tasmania.In 1983, the Australian Labor Party won the federal election. The Tasmanian state elections went against the national swing and the Liberal party ignored federal regulations and legislation and continued with the building of the dam. The conflict was brought before the High Court who found in favour of the federal government. This led to the end of the scheme and the end of the generation of hydroelectric dam building in Australia.
Richard Flanagan writes on Tasmania’s wilderness photography: “I sometimes think both Truchanas’s and Dombrovskis’s attitude to the natural world of Tasmania can only be understood as a response to the immense human horror of World War II in Eastern Europe. At the edge of the world, where the contours of progress were more visible than at its centre, two photographers, refugees of the last great conflict of nation and ideology against nation and ideology, perhaps came closer than many of their more celebrated peers in speaking of the conflict to come - of man against the natural world, and the terrible cost, not just to our environment and economy, but to our humanity if we did not try to prevent it, if we did not try to understand ourselves and our world differently.”