“The Australian landscape is ancient, unique, harsh, and barren,” says photographer Leah Kennedy. From Perth, she flew over a long chain of rivers and salt lakes from the Wongan Hills region to Lake Moore, about 400 km northeast of Western Australia’s state capital, with one goal: salt. His first series of images, called ‘Salis,’ follows the flight path from the coast to the Australian outback.
West Aussie born and raised photographer
“I am Australian, born and raised in Western Australia. So I have an affinity with this landscape. It is unique, harsh, and barren. From the ground, this feeling is perhaps difficult to photograph and convey. But from the air, the landscape has all these characteristics and more. This project came to me organically: I researched areas to photograph locally using the Google Maps satellite view. When you look at the Western Australian landscape, what jumps out are the ancient river systems that weave through it.”
“This was the beginning of an idea dedicated to exploring the abstraction and duality of the aerial landscape using the theme of salt, which is so prevalent in the Australian landscape, from the coast to the interior. This project has evolved from an initial impulse to an environmental concern. It is a way to distance oneself from the destruction and problems caused by salinisation. But also to highlight the abstract beauty of the landscape.”
“The area photographed for this part of the series is subject to a semi-arid climate where primary salinity is a natural process. Precipitation brings small amounts of salt over several thousand years and can accumulate over time. Secondary salinisation is due to a change in land use. In the case of Western Australia, it results from land clearing at the turn of the century. Ultimately, this increased salinity threatens ecosystems.”
Aerial photos taken from a plane
“These images were taken from a single-engine Cessna 210 aircraft which does not have a wing or retractable wheel support, allowing a wider field of view when shooting. As we were travelling a great distance and fuel management was a concern and the greatest difficulty of the job, the door was not removed, and the flights were carefully planned. However, this aircraft has a window that can be opened, which allowed me to photograph from that gap.”
“It is a process of a joint agreement between the pilot and myself, and I communicate to him the objective I am trying to achieve so that he can position the aircraft accordingly. Then there are the technical aspects of photography, such as shutter speed and aperture, which are important factors in aerial photography. The shutter speed should be high, at least 1/2,000th of a second, to dampen the vibrations of the aircraft.”
More on this photo series
“Once I’m back in front of my computer and looking, selecting, and editing, my artistic vision for this work goes further. I lighten and darken certain areas to draw the eye in, enhancing the colours and textures to bring more life to the image. This is a fun part of the process: I like to improve the files and ultimately get them ready for print.”
“The process of investigating, planning, and executing the first part of this series seemed reminiscent of early explorers, but with much more advanced technology! Finally, it reminded me of the tendency to use Latin names for scientific discoveries.”
“I don’t believe salt was ever ‘mined’ in Australia. It is more of environmental concern because of the land clearing at the turn of the century, which resulted in secondary salinisation. The result is an environment that becomes toxic to native flora and fauna. Salt is grown in Australia, but, as far as I know, this is not the case with the salt I photographed for this series. I plan to take shots of salt farming for later parts of the series.”
“This work is the first part of a project that is not yet complete; I have no clear plan for how many series it will contain, and I have a long list of contact details of potential sites for the next stage. What will come next is still being decided, but it’s exciting and motivating to have this project on the horizon!”
Leah’s work has been featured on a bunch of prominent photography social media accounts such as Swan Media!