James Bugg investigates ecological decay in Australia
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James Bugg investigates ecological decay in Australia

“My previous projects were about trajectories and directions, and how hard it can be to get out,” explains the Melbourne-born and based photographer. In his new project, titled Be Angry at the Sun, Bugg turns his lens to the Murray River and its surrounding area in south-east Australia. “I’ve been camping there since childhood, and recently, I’ve been returning with my camera,” he says. “It’s a place of incredible natural wealth, but also an environment highly managed by human intervention. The ecological and Aboriginal approach to land has been discarded. Simply put, the river is slowly dying due to the ongoing belief that it can and should be controlled.”

The health of the river has declined significantly. In a 2012 government assessment of the ecosystem, more than 80 per cent of the river valley was found as having poor or very poor health for aquatic life. In the same year, a $13billion plan was introduced to balance the damage, but a government investigation found that the plans ignored “catastrophic” risks of climate change. Bugg refers to this ecological decay as a ‘slow violence’: a term coined by British author Rob Nixon. ”Slow violence is unseen and ongoing, it isn’t disastrous or spectacular enough to make headlines, but its consequences are dire,” he says. “I am interested in how photography can be used to document something that is invisible, that creeps with time, always out of sight.” 

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