The drought is at the top of people’s minds for those living across the Central West, but one little town is feeling pretty special right now thanks to Sydney Photographer Allan Coker.
Allan visited Coolah in April and was struck by the resilience and spirit of the people and wanted to capture it.
He spoke to the Mudgee Guardian about his journey in the small country town.
It started back in the summer of 2017 on a photographic trip back from Lightning Ridge.
Allan called in for a coffee at Coolah Bakery where he met Matilda “Tilly” Quera, a member of the Coolah Art Committee.
Matilda saw his camera and explained that her father was a photographer and she still had a number of his black and white prints back at her homestead.
Allan jumped at the chance to see them and asked if he could visit to see her dad’s work.
He was struck by the quality and history of the images that were taken around Circular Quay Sydney during construction of the Opera House.
“I commented that the photographs were of such merit they should be in the State Library, then I turned one over and saw a stamp on the back saying ‘Max Dupain Studio’,” Allan said.
It was revealed Tilly’s father was Kerry Dundas, a talented photographer and associate of Max Dupain who was one of Australia’s most celebrated modern photographers.
Tilly mentioned to Allan that the local Pandora Gallery needed an exhibition to stage over the ANZAC period..
“I jumped at the chance as I had previous works ready to go. That happened in 2017, and I really enjoyed it,” he said.
“I wanted to do another exhibition, but focus it on the people of Coolah and that’s how it all started.”
He produced a series of images to portray people of Coolah doing everyday activities.
“I wanted to capture the everyday heroes who make Coolah tick and celebrate ordinary people who make a contribution to the life and vitality of the town,” he said.
Allan captured shearers, an artist, a paramedic, the mechanic, the doctor, the postmaster, a station manager, farmers, the butcher and the hairdresser.
“All of these people contribute in their own way to the community and have a story to tell,” he said.
He thought it was important to celebrate the lives of ‘our unsung everyday heroes’.
“I hope they’ll be delighted to see themselves on the gallery wall, they are all important to the community.”
Tilly said she looked forward to the exhibition and it was a fantastic opportunity for Coolah.
“Allan has been able to get a snapshot of both the town and the rural community together,” she said.
Secretary for CHATS [Coolah Historical, Arts, Tourism Sub-Committee] Di McArthur said it was great to have something positive for people to come and see.
“I think everyone’s seen enough photos of scorched trees, empty dams and paddocks,” she said.
The exhibition opens on Friday August 31 at 6.30pm at the Pandora Art Gallery, Binnia Street, Coolah.