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

‘Deadly Threads’ Comes To Cairns …

Whilst my personal exhibition “A Photographer’s Life – Part Two” has sadly finished it’s five week season at the Court House Gallery Cairns, I’m very gratified to still have (large) work ‘next door’ at the Cairns Art Gallery as an integral part of ‘Deadly Threads’.

Early this year, at the request of the State Library of Queensland, I produced a series of images in a Cairns pop up studio of a fascinating variety of prominent northern Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders wearing a creative colourful showcase of indigenous singlets, shirts, polos and jerseys.

The resulting SLQ exhibition “Deadly Threads” explores the significance of these apparel pieces as symbols of identity, celebration and unity. They have been developed to protest, commemorate special occasions and historical events and tell stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures.

The exhibition drew crowds in Brisbane during an extended season at the State Library of Queensland from March to October … liberally sprinkled with massive prints of my work amongst the 190 shirts displayed. (I was fortunate to get down to Brisbane to see the exhibition on it’s very last day !)

The exhibition came ‘home’ to Cairns this month at the historic (formerly Public Curators Building) Cairns Art Gallery, with an opening eve on the 2nd of December. Very pleasingly my work again plays a prominent part … (although the actual shirts are still the real ‘stars’ of the show). Two of my works massively adorn the portico outside the gallery to alert passersby to the exhibition inside … images of South Sea Islander resident of Gimuy (Cairns), Franklin Mye (right – below) … and Conrad (CJ) Ahwang, Muluyligal-Zeandth R\Kes man also residing in Gimuy (left – below).

Inside a further half a dozen images adorned the walls … with the pick being another massive image of ‘CJ’ (pics below) unmissably greeting everyone as they entered the exhibition room.

This really is a fine exhibition … the shirts … especially those produced on Mer (Murray) Island to document Eddie Mabo and his work … are fascinating. I’m proud to be a part of it. The exhibition runs till the 23rd January and entry is free … don’t miss it !

Images © Brian Cassey


'Deadly Threads' - exhibition of Indigenous shirts by State Library of Queensland at Cairns Art Gallery - still image work by Brian Cassey

'Deadly Threads' - exhibition of Indigenous shirts by State Library of Queensland at Cairns Art Gallery - still image work by Brian Cassey

'Deadly Threads' - exhibition of Indigenous shirts by State Library of Queensland at Cairns Art Gallery - still image work by Brian Cassey

'Deadly Threads' - exhibition of Indigenous shirts by State Library of Queensland at Cairns Art Gallery - still image work by Brian Cassey

'Deadly Threads' - exhibition of Indigenous shirts by State Library of Queensland at Cairns Art Gallery - still image work by 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)




Storyology Thanks and Farce …

The annual Walkley Storyology Photography Slide event morphed into something different this year … with very mixed results.

2015 saw the prize for photography based short videos expand to a Nation wide event rather that ‘State’ based with two awards presented – one judged by a panel of photojournalists (in Sydney) and the other by ‘peoples choice’ via the Walkley Foundation Facebook page.

The excellent judges selected a great entry by the Age photographer Justin McManus entitled “Bonnie Doon: How’s the Serenity” as Winner.

However, the ‘peoples choice’ award turned into a farce when one entry – declared the ‘Peoples Choice Winner’ by the Walkley Foundation – amassed almost as many votes as the the other 22 entries combined – the majority of which were from obviously fake and/or bogus Facebook accounts.

I would like to sincerely say ‘Thank You’ to the two hundred and eighty two of my friends and colleagues who took the time and trouble to place a ‘peoples choice’ vote for my entry “Lifestyle Choices” (below). Your votes contributed to a total tally which was by far the highest from ‘real’ people! Very much appreciated indeed …


“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


Walkley Award …

Last week I was enjoying a nice evening after a hard day flying across the Torres Strait to photograph old George Mye on Darnley Island, when I started to receive messages from friends and colleagues in Sydney that my image of Cairns burns survivor Carol Mayer had been selected as the Winner of the “2011 Nikon Walkey Best Portrait Award”. The announcement was made that evening at the Australian Centre for Photography in Paddington.

That’s a great way to start an evening. Fantastic news …

This Thursday I have to take the little flight from Cairns to Melbourne for the presentation dinner hosted by the lovely people at Nikon and the Walkley Foundation.

I’ve since visited the subject of the image … the brave and lovely Carol … and showed her the image, the judges comments and the hundreds of comments I have received on various social media.

The image is shown below with the comments of the judges … and clicking on the pic will also take you to the My Nikon Life site where you can view all the photographic works of the 2011 Nikon Walkley winners and finalists.

Image © Brian Cassey 2011