Bushfires extract a devastating financial and emotional toll on so many Australians. Lives lost, properties destroyed. Lifetimes of accumulated hopes, dreams and memories reduced to ashes. The love of the bush is so deeply ingrained in the national psyche that it is largely taken for granted until tragedy strikes.
Records of the past
Professional photographer Robert Bignell, recently retired after 40 years, knows both the beauty and ferocity of the Australian bush better than most. On one hand, he has won numerous awards for his evocative nature studies and lives on a property in remote bushland in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. On the other, he has been instrumental in providing bushfire victims with a measure of vitally important relief from their misfortunes.
Mr Bignell has a vast collection of negatives from local weddings and family events going back to his earliest days as a photographer. He has been able to use his archives to replace invaluable family photographs lost in bushfires.
A long-time client recently came to him with just such a request.
"They lost everything in the bushfire", Mr Bignell recounted. "Their home, their dog. Everything was flattened. But I've kept every negative I've ever taken so I was able to dig out their wedding photos. It was one very small drop of relief."
Floods are another disaster where Mr Bignell has been able to assist families replace their photographic memories.
Prepare for the future - save the past
In times of emergency, and especially with the swiftness with which such disasters can strike, it's often not possible to gather up personal belongings in time to evacuate. Robert offers a helpful tip in preparing for such events. Preparing for the future often calls for conserving the past.
"I suggest to people that, with family portraits or whatever photography they have done, to put it all on a high-resolution disc and store it in a separate location. Not only in the case of bushfires but even burglary or a hard drive crash."
Although now retired, Robert's passion for nature photography remains. He's glad he can deliver a measure of comfort to people whose lives have been devastated by bushfire.
Planning for the unexpected
January and February are unfortunately often referred to as disaster season in Australia. The stress caused by natural disasters can be minimised by some planning. Insure your property, business, yourself and your family. Have a plan for escaping any impending blaze, flood or other natural catastrophe and make sure you and your family are familiar with it.
This information is current as at 15/08/2016.
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