July 31, 2002

Fort Petrie, Sydney Harbour

Of all the sites in Sydney Harbour, Fort Petrie is the only one being actively preserved. When I'd visited it a decade before, it had been an abandoned ruin, with a water-filled bunker, and little else to indicate that it was a fort of any historical importance. Like North Bar, I'd photographed Fort Petrie in 1991, but I welcomed the chance to return and continue the documentation - thus my pleasure to find that the site was now being cared for, and preserved for posterity.
8"x10" film
This is, of course, a double edged sword, because while the preservation of the space would protect it from further deterioration, it also involved neat, clear labels being placed on almost everything of interest in the main fort. As a result, I quickly bypassed the main fort, and headed for the cliff, where the searchlights were emplaced; in 1991 when I'd first visited, one of the emplacements had slid down the cliff, and I was interested to find if it even existed now.
8"x10" film
My first day photographing the forts in Sydney harbour had been frustrating weather-wise, but this afternoon was perfect - high fast moving cloud produced shade when I most needed it, while the sun provided the contrast that was sorely missing before. If the day had been sunny with a clear blue sky, it would have been hard to control the contrast, and if it had been dull and grey, I would have been back where I was a decade ago, with blank white skies and foregrounds with little sense of volume to their shadow less rocks.

I only made a couple of images of the first searchlight emplacement. It looked much as it did a decade ago, and is in fact the exact same design as those in Halifax, which probably makes the searchlights the defining architectural feature of the Halifax Defence complex.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, the second emplacement was still in the process of sliding downhill (it seemed to have hit bottom, but I suspect in several years, it will finally topple on its side). As a result, most of my time at Fort Petrie was spent working with this dynamic element, first from a shallow rock-bar offshore, and then from directly below the searchlight building, looking up into its broken face. In both cases, the sweeping perspective of the 150mm wide-angle lens accentuated the lines of the images. While I wished I had more time to document the other forts around the harbour, I was pleased with the images I accomplished in the short time I did work in Sydney, and hope to be able to return in the future.

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