Lost in Space in the Outback

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope. Still in expansion – it currently has 36 dishes – the telescope will have the equivalent of 96 dishes by the time it’s fully operational in approximately 2023.

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder

Covering a feature for The Weekend Australian Magazine recently, I travelled to the remoteness of Boolardy Station to photograph the facility and the key members of the team overseeing its operation. Boolardy, a pastoral lease some 4 hours drive inland across red dusty roads from the nearest regional settlement of Geraldton on Western Australia’s central coast, is by anyones standards in the middle of nowhere.

With its eye-catching sun-bleached white dishes, the ASKAP cuts a dramatic manmade imposition on the landscape panorama. But it’s not alone in the wilderness. Another radio telescope system on the property spreads across the ochre coloured terrain appearing as robotic silvery spiders. Laid out in square grids, the so called Widefield Array was designed and is monitored jointly by CSIRO and a dozen other Australian and international science bodies.

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder

While in the neighbourhood I also had the pleasure of experiencing Astrofest, an event sponsored by the State government with talks by leading Australian based astronomers. Held at the Murchison Settlement, a roadhouse and sports facility nearby the ASKAP, it attracted some 300 amateur astronomers and astro enthusiasts from as far away as Perth, 800 kilometres to the south.

It’s interesting to note that the Murchison shire covers an area the size of The Netherlands, has a population of 113 people, hosts 29 properties and has no townships. Boolardy Station was earmarked as an ideal location for the radio telescope for this reason: it’s quiet – there’s minimal electronic interference from mobile phones and other equipment .

Where as optical telescopes can view visible light, radio telescopes pick up radio waves across the depths of the universe. As The Weekend Australian’s features writer Richard Guilliatt eloquently wrote in our article “radio waves are especially interesting to astronomers because, unlike visible light and other electromagnetic radiation, they travel the entire breadth of the universe without being absorbed and scattered by intervening matter.”

As local pastoralist Sandy McTaggart so profoundly stated to Guilliatt, ” They reckon that the deeper into space you look, the further back in time you go. So when you’re looking at other galaxies you’re actually looking at light from a million years ago. It’s the big question, isn’t it: how did it all begin? Every religion was spawned on the basis of it.”

Australian Square Kilometre Array PathfinderPlease visit my web site for a wider selection of images from the  adventure –


‘Life, The Universe & Boolardy’ as feature in 12 October ’13 issue of The Weekend Australian Magazine can be viewed here:


Cheers, P


Inside Australia

I had the pleasure of photographing in the Eastern Goldfield’s of Western Australia a few weeks ago. Travelled to Lake Ballard near the town of Menzies, specifically to see first hand the remarkable sculptural installation by British artist Anthony Gormley. Titled ‘Inside Australia’ and consisting of 51 figurines spread out across the vastness of the salt lake, it’s an experiential work that compels the visitor to head out on to the salt flat and explore the figures. On the silvery-red flat pan, they drawn you further and further toward the horizon. A strangely hypnotic experience, all the more fascinating because of the silent beauty of the desolate landscape. Anthony Gormley's 'Inside Australia' sculpture, Lake Ballard Camping out at the lake’s edge under, lit by a luminous moon in a cloudless sky, I awoke before sunrise to venture out to meet the figurines before the sun’s first rays struck their metallic surfaces. Brilliant, and a lifelong memory in the bag. And what a potential setting for an outback thriller!Anthony Gormley's 'Inside Australia' sculpture, Lake Ballard

Bulkland promo

Hi all,

I’d like to draw your attention to a friend of mine Daniel Whelan’s latest film project BULKLAND …


BULKLAND is a documentary on the obscure Chinese city of Yiwu, showcasing the world’s largest – if not largest – wholesale merchandise market. As a centre of international merchandise sales, attracting traders from around the globe, Yiwu’s markets are nothing less than huge and remarkable.

A real talent, Daniel’s completed a couple of successful short films and this will be his first feature documentary. Please reach out to support him in his efforts to fund this fantastic project by visiting the Bulkland home page:


The project is also featured on the producers FB home page:


With gratitude,


Shanghai, City in Search of a Soul

Just want to share with you a feature story I photographed in this month’s issue of The Australian Financial Review Magazine titled Shanghai: City in Search of a Soul.

Written by Lisa Murray, it tells the story of a city that has undergone rapid transformation and reinvention, with a vast dichotomy of inhabitants, yet, regardless of its new found wealth in many ways it’s still unsure of its direction. As Lisa writes, “Shanghai has aspirations to become the cultural capital of Asia but it’s yet to develop the arts and cultural software to match its mega-metropolis hardware”

Unfortunately, asides from buying a copy at the news store, the article is only available online to subscribers, but I attach a couple sample images here, and please visit my web site for a broader selection of photos on the feature.


Shanghai - educated, urbane twenty somethings.

Shanghai - luxury brands and bling

Shanghai - rural workers and unskilled workers keep the city alive

2013: A Space Odyessy

So there I was, descending from the 97th floor of the 101 floor Shanghai World Financial Center. On my own with the green light …. the green light, the space age like capsule … instantly, the thought occurred to me, one of my favorite movies 2001: A Space Odyessy … man, a perfect situation to recreate the spacecraft interior in digital film: self portrait, express elevator, from 97th floor SWFC, 2013.

So, where’s HAL?

self portrait, express elevator, from 97th floor of Shanghai's World Financial Center

self portrait, express elevator, from 97th floor of Shanghai’s World Financial Center


China’s Little Africa

Returning to China last month I shot a couple magazine features. One a commissioned shoot on contemporary Shanghai, another a story on Guangzhou’s Little Africa.

As part of a global diaspora that has come hand-in-hand with globalization, it’s estimated there are as many as 100 000 Africans living in Guangzhou, coming from all corners of the continent.

Mostly concentrated in a couple of the city’s northern suburbs of Yuexiu and Baiyun, many of the African’s are merchants trading in locally produced goods for export back to their African homelands. From several nearby trade markets, they buy products as diverse as clothing, apparel, electronics, building materials and machinery. It’s a thriving community, and one that is indirectly helping to create a merchant class back in Africa.

The combined African populous represents the largest foreign community in Guangzhou, southern China’s largest city. Though by and large while the Chinese have been largely very open and accepting, their presence has nevertheless not been without racial incident.

Please view a wider selection of images on this story on my web site at:


Guangzhou's Chocolate City: China's Little Africa

Guangzhou's Chocolate City: China's Little Africa Guangzhou's Chocolate City: China's Little Africa Guangzhou's Chocolate City: China's Little Africa