Covid-19 & Cairns … Economy in Freefall …

Reliant for a large part on the regular influx of now non-existent International tourists, the year long pandemic has seen Cairns suffering economically disproportionately compared with other parts of Australia.

As the Australian Government initiated JobKeeper support scheme comes to an end this month, Cairns immediate future looks bleak despite a Federal attempt at assistance via subsidised airfares and loans.

It isn’t a ‘pretty’ story for my long term home town … the current situation is dire …  but it did mean a nice gig for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

Many of my images made last week were used to illustrate the effects and hardships of the current desperate financial situation in Cairns and district as a result of the total loss of International tourism.

A pic gallery of thirteen of my images ran online (the SMH link is here ……/cairns-tourism-on-the-ropes…) … whilst the main story variously in print and online (by Brisbane Times journalist Matt Dennien) was accompanied by more of my pics … here

It seems it is going to be a long, long time till Cairns recovers from the body blow caused by the loss of International tourists during the current pandemic and Matt’s story is well worth a read.

Below are just a few of my images the former Fairfax (now ‘Nine’) publications used … from top … a lone swimmer at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon once crowded with International and Australian tourists … owner of Traveller Oasis backpackers Gabriel Thallon cleans his pool as lone International ‘guest’ Rina Yamauchi takes the sun … the locked and deserted Cairns International Terminal at Cairns Airport … crew of Passions of Paradise reef vessel Phoebe and Kirsty wash the boat down after a day on the GBR with few paying customers … and one of numerous closed businesses in Cairns CBD

Images © Brian Cassey

Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey

Russ …

It was a kick in the guts … the news that my mentor and mate … photojournalist legend and World Press Photo winner Russell McPhedran … had died in his sleep at the age of 82.

Sounds silly … but I’d never thought of that happening to ‘Russ’. Not large in stature, but massive in character and accomplishments, Russ had a more than significant influence on my career as a photographer. in the late 80’s and 90’s Russell took this brat of a freelance under his wing … as he did with so many other less than experienced photographers … taught me the ropes and trusted me to work on photo assignments of international importance for Associated Press of America (AP).

Just some of those stories were … the tsunami disaster in Sissano Papua New Guinea, George Speight’s coup in Fiji, the evacuation of survivors of the Bali bomb blasts, the exodus of Timor Leste refugees from the aggression of the Indonesians … and the World Economic Forum riots closer to home in Melbourne. There were many more … including a memorable few days in Port Douglas searching for Clinton’s ‘Monica Lewinsky’.

Russ had asked me to rush to Port when the story ‘broke’. It was soon obvious that Monica wasn’t there and wasn’t arriving either.  I rang Russ to let him know. The call went something like this … “OK Brian … can’t hear you … just putting my golf clubs in the car and I’ll be up there in a few hours”.  He was too … his second love after beating everyone to the best news pic was golf.

Before I learned about ‘the wires’ and agency ‘play’ Russell had already made some of the most memorable images of the twentieth century. Arguably the most notable was the image (described by Australian photojournalist and commentator Mike Bowers as the best known news Image ever made by an Australian) of a member of the Palestinian ‘Black September’ terrorist group during the murderous attack on the Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

There were many more Russ images that circled the planet just like he did during a career that began at The Sun newspaper in Sydney. Wordsmiths have penned many tributes to Russ over the last few days … and tell his story far better than I. Please find a couple of them here … from the New York Times and the South China Morning Post. There are many more on the net …

Mike Bowers made this memorable statement when Russ was inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame last November … “Few photographers take a picture powerful enough to enter the permanent consciousness of a nation, let alone become instantly recognizable around the world. Russ has a clutch of them”. Mike’s full tribute is here.

Russ’s funeral on Monday … ‘A Celebration of Life’ … was as memorable as his work and I was honoured to be there to say goodbye. The throng in attendance was a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s media … including PJ colleagues Mark ‘Crusty’ Baker, Rick Rycroft, Rick Stevens, David Gray, John French, Paul Matthews, Phil Hillyard, Stephen Holland, Verity Chambers, Peter Morris, Patrick Riviere, Gregg Porteous, Will Burgess, Quentin Jones, Paul Lovelace (apols for those missed) … and former Nikon supremo John Swainston who also kindly picked me up from the airport. Russ’s spouse Shirley and former News Ltd Chairman and CEO John Hartigan brought … a rarity at a funeral … applause from all for their telling of Russ ‘tales’. Post event ‘tales’ went on at the Great Northern pub that eve.

Yes … it’s too late now to say but … Russ … I owe you … lots … Thanks … the pleasure has been all mine.


Russell McPhedran - Olympic Games 1975


Front on Fairfax …

I certainly don’t do as much work for Fairfax publications as once I did (newspaper budgets across the board have sunk almost out of sight) but still get various odd commissions from The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the The Australian Financial Review.

So it was a pleasant surprise to get a message from The Age pic ed Leigh Henningham with the news that one of my images was on their front page on Friday … and turns out it was also page 1 of the SMH. It’s been a while since a pic of mine has graced both major Fairfax newspaper front pages on the same day …

The pic of a surgeon who wished to remain anonymous (creating a little challenge) was made inside a hospital surgery several weeks ago.

Below is a pic of The Age newspaper page 1 … the layout in The Age is marginally better than the SMH … and The Age managed to spell my name correctly in the pic credit … doh !

Image © Brian Cassey

The Age, Sydney Morning Herald -page 1 - 23.09.2016 - image by Brian Cassey

Good Weekend at 30 …

Fairfax’s weekend colour magazine Good Weekend is celebrating an anniversary – “Three decades of great story telling” – by reprising thirty of the very best features re-published in a special ‘Classics’ series “Good Weekend at 30”.

Pleased to report that a story that I worked on with mega talented journalist John van Tiggelen is amongst them.

“Another Country” was originally published in the mag as the cover feature on the 15th of May 2008 (blimey – was it really that long ago) … and told the story of, in Johns incisive wonderfully descriptive words and my images, the plight of the residents of the troubled Cape York Peninsula indigenous community of Aurukun.

The publication of the story stirred the pot somewhat and it was an important catalyst for change in conditions in far too long neglected aboriginal communities. Certainly some of the observations made just six years ago are not as appropriate or apparent now.

The Fairfax promotional image for “Good Weekend at 30” is below … and my cover is bottom row third from left (indigenous children with wallaby). You can read John’s excellent “Another Country” and see some of my accompanying pics (in some cases badly cropped by online subs) at … . You may read all the excellent selected “Good Weekend at 30” feature stories by visiting … 

Also below is my favourite image from the Aurukun set (before being savagely hacked by subs !). It was used on page 1 of the Sydney Morning Herald to promote the original publication of “Another Country” back in 2008.

Aurukun images © Brian Cassey