Albert … the Last of the Trochus Divers … and CIAF …

Now 83 years old Albert ‘Boyo’ Ware began his career as a trochus diver deckhand at the age of fifteen. He is now one of just a handful of Torres Strait and Aboriginal survivors of the trochus and pearl shell industry that dominated the farm northern Australian economy in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Initially working trochus from small boats with a crew of four Albert eventually progressed to diving for pearl shell from larger lugger boats after the bottom fell out of the trochus market.

Albert still calls St Pauls on Moa Island in the Torres Strait ‘home ‘ despite his post seafaring exploits as a Cape York stockman and stints working on the railways and roads of far north Queensland.

A prolific story teller, Albert can bend your ears for hours with great humour and enthusiasm. One highlight of our conversations was this tale of the time he rode a whale. Diving for pearl shell at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef near Gladstone they came across a twelve metre hump back whale stranded in a lagoon. The whale has doing circles around the lagoon so Albert and his mate jumped in, hung onto the whale tail and went for a spin. (The whale was fine and escaped to freedom when the tide rose.)

I met Albert at the opening of “Lugger Bort” … a Cairns Indigenous Art Fair event at The Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns. The brilliant exhibition curated by Nerelle Nicol focuses on “the working life of the Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islanders who worked the pearling, Beche-de-mer and trochus industries living on luggers in Far North Queensland” was a ‘must see’ but sadly ended yesterday, Sunday.

A pleasure to listen to Albert tell his stories and to make his portrait … and … as he told me … “The journey is still on”.

Image © Brian Cassey

Tropical Travels … with Tony …

A distinct pleasure to join the Canberra ‘press pack’ for a week covering the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s northern Australia indigenous tour. This year the PM chose to grace the Torres Strait and the Northern Peninsula Area at the tip of Cape York with his presence  – and several government Ministers also decided it was a good idea and left the chilly climes of Canberra to join him.

I was one of three still photographers in the ‘pack’ – the others being talented ‘fotostrada’ colleague and AAP staffer Tracey Nearmy and Fairfax Canberra politics photographer Alex Ellinghausen. Also carting still cameras was ex Daily Telegraph snapper Brad Hunter in his new role as the PM’s media adviser and personal photographer.

As is always the story with these ‘media opportunities’ the schedule was hectic – including visits to Thursday Island and Mer (Murray) Island in the Torres Strait – and then the NPA communities of Seisia, Bamaga, Injinoo, Umagico and New Mapoon. Highlight of the week was arguably Tony Abbott’s visit to the grave of Eddie Mabo (who infamously was instrumental in overturning the legal doctrine of terra nullius) on Mer Island.

Since our return from the far far north Tracey and I have compiled a photo essay – “Tropical Travelling with Tony” – which is now published on the web site of our ‘fotostrada’ collective under ‘Latest Stories’ at .

The collection of 33 images document the week of the tour concentrating on the background picture, the pics that wouldn’t/didn’t make the press – and the people and places that were impacted by the visit of Australia’s political leader. Plus the odd ‘different’ pic of Tony himself.

Below I’ve posted just three of the large essay – the top two made by myself and the third from Tracey.

Images © Brian Cassey (top two) and Tracey Nearmy (AAP – bottom)




“Vignette” Exposure …

One of my images from a past trip to the Torres Strait has been selected to currently feature as the ‘Vignette’ magazine “Photo of the Week” … pretty pleased with that !

‘Vignette’ magazine is an International quarterly focusing on photographic practice from all around the planet. The aim of the mag is to ‘Inspire International Imagery’ and it features work from a diverse range of photographic disciplines by  some of the Worlds most prestigious and talented photographers.

The image is of a young girl – Hedda – the daughter of a performer, backstage at the indigenous ‘Hidden Republic’ concert on Thursday Island off the tip of Cape York. It had previously been selected as a Finalist in the ‘Moran Photographic Prize’.

Below is a grab of the ‘Vignette’ web site page featuring the image.

Image © Brian Cassey