The Eerie “Salt” Photographs of Murray Frederick

Over the last weekend, while channel surfing, I ended up watching the last two-thirds of a documentary titled:  Salt.  It was being shown on the PBS Channel World as part of the POV series.

Some Fredericks’ Images of Lake Eyre

The documentary concerns the adventures of a solo bicyclist/photographer on a salt flat–Lake Eyre–in southern Australia.  According to an article by Mark Chipperfield in American Express’ Platinum (Nov 2007):

By [Murray Fredericks’] own admission, documenting the nuances of light and space in one the world’s harshest environments has taken its toll on his health.  Each year he spends five weeks camping alone on Lake Eyre–but the operation means ferrying camera equipment, batteries, food and water using a bicycle and a trailer.

“Between the edge of the lake and the salt pan itself is a section of waterlogged ground.  This year [2007] it took two days to get all my stuff on the salt.  Then I need to resupply every seven days, which means coming back over the mud.  The physical exertion nearly killed me.”

Fredericks at a Campsite on Lake Eyre

I’m also fascinated by salt flats, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to spend multiple, 5-week solo expeditions on one.  Since I live in Utah, I’ve driven across the Bonneville Salt Flats more times than I can remember and enjoy spending short vacations in the West Desert.  About 20 years ago, I was on the northern end of the Altiplano in Bolivia.  I remember reading about the salt lakes and pans in the southern end of this high South American plain (over 10,000 feet above sea level). 

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Uganda.  And in western Uganda, near Queen Elizabeth National Park, there is a important salt lake/flat (Lake Kitwa).  Historically, salt has been an important exchange commodity in Africa.  After retirement, I would love to spend time wandering around the salt flats on the southern Altiplano and in western Uganda.

For Fredericks,

. . . The idea of Lake Eyre came to him during a trip to South America [Altiplano?].  “I had this experience of standing on a salt plan alone at night,” he recalls.  “And that experience, that feeling, wouldn’t go away  When I heard about Lake Eyre I wondered if I could make a body of [photographic] work out of the pure emptiness–there’s a lovely link there with the mind, and what happens when you empty your mind.

The amalgamation of Zen philosophy, technical prowess, commercial acumen and robust individualism is what makes Fredericks so unusual and, in part, explains the billiance of his Lake Eyre pictures. . .

Watching Salt on POV was a very intriguing experience.  I loved watching it, and the photographs and videofootage are eerie, beautiful, and in some cases almost terrifying.  They have an existential quality.

But art/documentary narrative is a dicey business.  To a civil engineer, much of it sounds like buffoonery.  Fads come and fads go, but most critics and commentators tend to survive on bullshit.  Having said that, Fredericks’ haunting images of Lake Eyre will endure, but much of dialogue in the documentary sounds like new-age nonsense.  But this in noway deters from the images in Salt and the photographer’s effort.

Location of Lake Eyre, Australia

This entry was posted in Art, Environment, existentialism, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Eerie “Salt” Photographs of Murray Frederick

  1. The Commodore of Australia’s Lake Eyre Yacht Club, Bob Backway, is always watching Lake Eyre for signs that he can raise the flag and declare race entries open for the next opportunity to sail on one of the driest and most isolated lakes on earth. The Lake Eyre Basin covers one sixth of the Australian continent – about 1.2 million square kilometres. It’s one of the largest internally draining systems in the world. The Lake Eyre basin stretches as far north as Camooweal and as far west as Alice Springs. It includes large parts of South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and some of western New South Wales. Lake Eyre is the fifth largest terminal lake in the world.

  2. gold account says:

    the largest closed lake in southern Australia. Lake Eyre is located in a depression 12 m below sea level in an arid, desertlike region. It is filled with water only during the summer, when creeks flow into it periodically until it attains an area of 15,000 sq km and a depth of as much as 20 m. At other times it is a salt marsh. The lake was named in honor of E. J. Eyre.

  3. Lake Eyre is within the scope of WikiProject Lakes , a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of lake -related articles on Wikipedia, using the tools on the project page . If you would like to participate , please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks .

  4. Maria says:

    I can understand the “emptying of ones mind ” Peace as One with the surrounds., awesome 🙂
    Love your photographs Mr. Murray Frederick., so enjoyed looking at them., IN THE FIRST INSTANCE., it was on the television for Tin Roof., lol

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