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At Water’s Edge

Words and images by Paul Blackmore

By August 27, 2021The Collective

‘Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.’

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1900-1944, Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939.

At Water’s Edge,– spanning 11 years and 14 countries – provides a global look at how water flows through the spiritual and physical daily lives of people around the world. The photographs poignantly illustrate the unfolding drama of the global water crisis and how it is affecting those caught up in it: a billion people without access to clean water, another four billion without an adequate supply. Against this dire backdrop, the work also celebrates the quiet, yet essential connection with nature that water offers us.

At Water’s Edge begins in the year 2000, during the Eritrean/Ethiopian war, when a lack of water drastically affected those attempting to flee the conflict. The world- wide scarcity of clean water has also evolved into a devastating drama still seen in many Third World cities, particularly in Mumbai, where even the city’s poorest citizens are forced to pay exorbitant amounts for clean water. Blackmore also explores the strange scenario that occurs when seas die. In Kazakhstan, Blackmore discovered that the Aral Sea, a once glistening body of water, had lost two-thirds of its volume after source waters had been diverted for cotton irrigation during the Soviet era. Blackmore recorded a desolate, surreal image of a lone, rusting fishing boat stranded on the dry seabed, symbolizing the Aral Sea’s now devastated fishing industry.

In Blackmore’s At Water’s Edge humanity’s reliance on water runs deeper than the physical. The work also explores the spiritual significance of water in religion; from the Voodoo Saut d’Eau waterfall cleansing ritual in Haiti to the Jewish Mayim Shelanu water-collecting ceremony in Jerusalem; from the Muslim Wudu prayer cleansing ritual in Bangladesh to the icy waters of the Christian Orthodox Festival of the Epiphany in Russia. Blackmore reveals the universality in the world’s most diverse religions: the power of water to atone the human spirit. In At Water’s Edge Blackmore has again sought the truth in the lives of others; revealing the beauty of the intimate and often vulnerable relationship individuals have with water, whilst simultaneously exploring the global situation of water scarcity.

Paul Blackmore

Paul Blackmore is an acclaimed Sydney based photojournalist. 
Renowned for covering social and political issues in Australia and internationally, Blackmore’s books, work and essays have been exhibited and published widely. Blackmore’s highly regarded first book, Australians: Response to the Land examined how the tough Australian environment animates and influences Australian culture. In the book’s introduction, esteemed author David Malouf writes: “In Paul Blackmore’s world these people are allowed the dignity of their ordinariness; he seeks out what is touching in them. This collection is full of such moments of affection and uncondescending regard for the lives of others. For all its grimness, the world he presents is aglow with life, and little incidental beauties, and an abiding mystery.”

In his new body of work Heat, Blackmore’s exposes a culture laid bare under an ever hotter sun. Against the backdrop of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Heat explores the intimate relationship between humanity and the ocean. While Blackmore’s images seeks beauty, they are vibrant and at times haunting reminders of our cultural and spiritual reliance on our beaches. As one of the key exhibitions of the Head On Photo Festival, Heat is incredibly relevant to contemporary Australia. Part of the series was featured in the exhibition Water at GOMA Nov2019 – April 2020.
Blackmore’s many photo essays and stories, published in such international media as Time, L’Express, Le Monde and Geo, have established him as a much sought-after collectable photographer. He has gained prominence through his exhibitions at Stills Gallery Sydney, Perpignan France, the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne and At Water’s Edge at the Leonardo Museum Salt Lake City. A selection of works from Heat was shown at GOMA 2019- 2020. Blackmore is one of a new generation of photojournalists – reporters of reality –whose elegant, coherent and enduring observations function as both valuable records of social change and stunning fine-art images. 

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