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Salt Frames

Words and images by Nicholas Walton-Healey

Earlier this year, I exhibited Salt Frames – a collection of sixteen photographs made along the Nightcliff foreshore in Darwin. Although several photographs in the collection were produced back in 2016, the majority emerged during the trips I made to The Territory in 2022 – the year in which I also began assigning a one-word title to each, with the intention of emphasising the inherently subjective nature of ‘seeing.’

The Nightcliff foreshore is where I learnt to ‘see.’ It’s the place I discovered my ‘voice,’ though this took many years, and wisdom and insight imparted through the personal connections leading me back to this stretch of coast.

Watch the water long enough and you’ll see a fish jump. That was what my mentor – Larrakia man, Robert E. Lewis – used to say to me, as we stood above the cliffs, watching the crystal-clear water of The Timor Sea ebb and flow across the sandy banks below.

It took me a long time to understand that, rather than actually looking for fish (and we did see a few!), the profundity of this statement rested with its’ instructing me to look past the surface of things. To turn my gaze inwards, and into the reflections, and in this way, apprehend depth. I felt adrift in the depths of 2022, meandering along the foreshore, thinking about the dreams I’d harboured for my life before the loss of my fiancée in 2018.

I found reassurance and comfort in the salt of this water. I was re-invigorated by its capacity to both console and sooth. I returned to all the places – the spots along this coast – that held both cherished and painful memories, and gradually mustered the courage to connect. Embrace. Resume the dialogue suspended by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the hurt of the loss.

The Salt Frames collection, then, is about loss and longing. But it is also an ode to enduring connection. The future is like the horizon-line: it’s always emergent. This year, I’ve begun extending the collection: undertaking the physical and aesthetic work required to bring a once-envisaged future back into being.

In addition to re-attuning my senses to the beauty and life of the foreshore, this process has also involved shooting and curating the new and old Frames in relation to two groups – The Wet, and The Dry. My hope is that, by the end of this year, the expanded collection will showcase the incredible breadth and diversity of this place, as well as the personal and aesthetic transformations it continues to inspire in the heart and eye of the photographer.













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