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User / John's Photo Philosophy
Luminosity 7 / 4,300 items

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I know that most people who visit this page will merely click on the photograph and view it for a few seconds and move on. Very well, that's typical for Flickr. But what I am doing here is telling a story. A very important one that has serious ramifications for colonial history and the history of art in Australia.

So thank you to those of you taking the time to read this story as we unpack the main message of Daniel Herbert's in the Ross Bridge stone carvings. Remember you can return at any time to reread this information and make any historical comments or suggestions - I welcome that. This research is in its infancy so to speak.

Last photograph I introduced you to Herbert's type of the devil, Jorgen Jorgenson - so I won't repeat any of that here. But I will say a word about his sad wife, Norah Corbett, and then show how these figures are linked with Herbert's type of a virtuous woman, his wife Mary Witherington.
[I've tagged the relevant figures in the photograph to help you.]

Norah Corbett was the same age as Mary Witherington, but whereas the virtuous Mary lived until 90, Norah died at 40 as a result of the effects of alcohol and "loose living". Norah was an Irish convict from County Cork, and had married Jorgenson in 1831.

Whether Jorgenson's activities on the infamous "Black Line", the squad dedicated to eradicating the "Aboriginal problem", had contributed to her deep malaise we can't be sure, but knowing something of Jorgenson's boastfulness there is no doubt he told this poor women some harrowing tales of death and destruction. "The devil seeks to kill and destroy."

So spare a thought for poor Norah, for whereas her convict counterpart Mary Witherington had been blessed to meet a man who had turned his life around to that of a practical saint, Norah lived with her demons until the end. And so they are all presented on the first arch on the north side of the Ross Bridge.

Have a look at the picture again. Can you see the typographical symmetry here? Mary and Norah on opposite sides (both number sevens, but in alternate "kingdoms"). For two stones up from Norah is Jorgen Jorgenson, the "king" of his own devilish kingdom.

On the other side we see Mary and two stones up from her (on exactly the same level as Jorgen Jorgenson) is the "Celtic horned-god" or the devil himself. Between the devil and Mary was the saving power of the rosy cross, but if you look closely under Norah Corbett's face you also see a cross form. But this is a "cross-out", an X that might allude to Norah's illiteracy, but also to the fact that she is crossed out of the kingdom of light.

To further cap this allegorical interpretation (remember I said that this work resembles a medieval mystery play), Norman Laird believes there is a cross in stone eight between Norah and Jorgen as well. [It is difficult to make out because of erosion in the sandstone.] We can see that it almost looks like a cross that is also the sun god. Laird lists a number of mythological origins here I won't go into (but p.168 if you find a copy of the book).

Let me suggest two possible interpretations. Apart from the pagan meanings of a sun god, we have two possible biblical considerations that feature prominently in the work of William Blake (and in the great "Paradise Lost" by John Milton). In biblical mythology, the devil or Lucifer, was an angel of light. And the purpose of that light shifted after the "fall from heaven" from reflecting the glory of God to that of the deceptive serpent who crept into the Garden of Eden and "enlightened" Adam and Eve in the "knowledge of good and evil". That's what the eating of the fruit ("apple" from the Latin malum, a play on the word that also means evil) meant. The Lucifer used his "light" to deceive humanity.

Now the other interpretation is even simpler. The day is coming when the Light of God will expose all sin for what it is. In either case, there is no chance of redemption for Jorgen Jorgenson or Norah Corbett, whereas the cross had already transformed the convict Mary Witherington into a virtuous woman.

There's a lot to unpack here and this is really just the beginning. In essence what I am doing is synthesising the admirable "depth" research of Norman Laird, and giving it a unified message that relates both to the individual hope for transformation, and for the belief that out of the evil beginnings of Van Diemen's Land as a colony, a new and just society may be born.

It is my singular belief, that the Ross Bridge artwork is one of the most important steps ever taken in this country to establish an iconography of renewal. To take the dross that led to the founding of Australia and turn it into an example of light in the world. That was Daniel Herbert's dream. But we are still a long way from getting there yet.

Tags:   Luminosity7 Nikon D850 Launceston Tasmania Australia Ross Ross Bridge 1836 Daniel Herbert (1802-1868) Symbolism Sandstone Stonemason Bridge Art Sculpture Allegory Iconography of renewal

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A common theme today is the natural environment, and this particular photograph is an interesting habitat indeed. There is so much in this little area which I've called "Nature's Foothold". The rocks are very ancient of course, formed by volcanoes long ago. Various species of coastal plants have made their home there in crevices like this.

Now apart from the yellow lichen here, often called the Maritime sunburst lichen (Xanthoria parietina), I will need help in identifying the other species of plants we see here. That green coastal succulent looks like some sort of maritime jade plant, but I have not been able to identify it. It has very translucent leaves with a complex vein structure. But there's a pleasant surprise when you enlarge the shot and look into the middle of the crevice (I've tagged it for you). Here is another species of plant altogether - most likely a form of coastal weed.

[This is a photograph you definitely need to see enlarged on a big screen.]

Tags:   Luminosity7 Nikon D850 Launceston Tasmania Australia Low Head Nature's Foothold Nature Coastal plants Rocks Lichen Green Yellow lichen Maritime sunburst lichen Xanthoria parietina

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Here is the 18th green of The Dunes, the oldest of the two courses opened in 2004. The designers, golf architect Tom Doak and former Australian champion golfer Michael Clayton, chose this landscape for its spectacular ocean views, but more particularly for the type of wild terrain it offered.

The Dunes has maintained its position as the number one public access course in Australia. Currently rated No.4 course in Australia (by Australian Golf Digest), No.34 course in the World (U.S. Golf Magazine) and No.11 course in the World (U.S. Golf Digest), The Dunes is a regular on ‘must play’ lists around the world.

I should also add that former Tasmanian and Australian cricketing great, Ricky Ponting is a very fine golfer who plays here when visiting his old home. His brother Drew is an even better golfer and was until recently a curator at this course.

Tags:   Luminosity7 Nikon D850 Launceston Tasmania Australia Bridport The Final Hole The Dunes Barnbougle Golf Golfers Links Green Sand Beach Tom Doak - golf course architect Michael Clayton - champion golfer Landscape Sport

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As we drive up the winding road that takes us from the plains via the Great Western Tiers to the Central Highlands, we can see here how the power from the Poatina Hydro Electric Station is distributed to the towns on the plains below.

In the distance we can get a clear view of the large plateau of Ben Lomond (Tasmania's second highest mountain) directly ahead. On the left I have tagged the distinctive features of Mount Albert and provide a link to a closer view taken from Ben Lomond.

Tags:   Luminosity7 Nikon D850 Launceston Tasmania Australia Great Western Tiers Ben Lomond from the cutting Plains Power transmission lines Ben Lomond B/W Black and White Monochrome

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As we progress through the story of the building of the Ross Bridge (1836), we'll zoom in and out on various aspects of the characters' lives and the bridge itself.

In this monochrome we see the direct work of three men, and perhaps dozens of their fellow convict labourers. The strong piers and breakwaters of the bridge (here is one example from the north face) were designed by the colonial architect of the time, John Lee Archer (1791-1852).

Archer's life began in Kent, born to an engineering family. He commenced his apprenticeship as an architect in London at the age of 18. In December of 1826 adventure beckoned, and he was recommended for the position of Colonial Architect to Van Diemen's Land. He arrived in August of the next year to take up the position and was responsible for the design of most government projects for the next ten years. His most notable achievements were the Tasmanian Parliament House and the Penitentiary Chapel at Port Arthur, designed along the lines of Jeremy Bentham's Model Prison.

In 1838, two years after the great triumph of the Ross Bridge, his position was abolished owing to a decline in colonial revenue. But Archer was a flexible man, and moved to Stanley on the north west coast to take up a position as police magistrate. Here he drew the first ever map of Circular Head. He died aged 61 in 1852 and is buried in the Old Stanley Graveyard.

The is no evidence that Archer spent much time at all in Ross or on the project for the bridge. That supervisory role was left to the military commander in Ross (we'll meet him in the next episode). But the man principally entrusted with Archer's designs and bringing them into fruition was convict stonemason, James Colbeck (1801-1852). I'll get to how Colbeck was assigned to this role soon, but when I tell you that before his arrest he worked on the building of Buckingham Palace, then you know why he was so sought after.

By pure coincidence both Archer and Colbeck died in the same year, but on different sides of the world! [I told you this story would be fascinating.] Yes, the former convict Colbeck would die a free man back in the England of his birth.

Colbeck was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, and became a stonemason. His talent was so pronounced that at the age of just 21 he was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work on Buckingham Palace in London. He worked there from 1822 to 1825. His wife and young son remained in Dewsbury, however, and soon Colbeck decided to leave London and return to Yorkshire. It was to have near fatal consequences.

Work was hard to find, and in order to feed his family he resorted to burglary. Soon after he was caught and in 1828 sentenced to life in prison in Van Diemen's Land (the harshest sentence this side of hanging). We have no idea what happened to his poor wife and family, and it is unlikely he ever saw them again. Arriving in the colony in 1829, Colbeck was assigned various road building tasks on a chain gang, but at least he did get to help build the New Orphan School in Hobart.

In 1831 the old wooden Ross Bridge was falling down. Local grazier William Kermode (we see him immortalised on the stone bridge as well - see the tag) and several leaders petitioned the government to build a new bridge. Colbeck had done some assigned work on Kermode's property, and when it was learned that he had worked on Buckingham Palace, Kermode immediately set out to have permission granted for Colbeck to be the foreman of the new project.

So the placement of every stone you see in the photograph above was the responsibility of James Colbeck, convict. And those stone icons you see here were designed and carved by Daniel Herbert, and his story provides one of the most fascinating tales in the entire history of the colonial convict enterprise.

Both Colbeck and Herbert were emancipated after completing the bridge. In 1841 Colbeck received a free pardon. The last reference to him in Tasmanian history was the 1843 census where he was listed as living in the West Tamar. But by 1850 he had returned to Wakefield in Yorkshire and was remarried. His death is registered on 17 February 1852 and he was buried in St. Matthews burial ground, Dewsbury. [My Yorkshire Flickr friends might like to look him up.]

Tags:   Luminosity7 Nikon D850 Launceston Tasmania Australia Ross Ross Bridge 1836 Convict Arches John Lee Archer (1791-1852) - architect James Colbeck (1801-1852) - stonemason Bridge Sandstone B/W Black and White Monochrome


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