Artist Interview | Christopher Rimmer on his new series 'Remnant'

Christopher Rimmer in the Australian outback

Award-winning photographer Christopher Rimmer’s new series, Remnant: The Tragedy of Lost Significance, descends into the Australian outback. In our interview with the artist, Rimmer discusses fallen meteors, futile ambition and the risks and rewards of going out bush.

Your previous series was set in Namibia. What brought you to the Australian outback?

After exhibiting Luna Park in Melbourne back in 2016, I always intended to do another Australian project but I was busy shooting and then exhibiting Confluence, which was done in Namibia. The onset of the pandemic and being obliged to remain in Australia, opened up the opportunity to work here again, but even then, it was a huge challenge crossing state borders and complying with lockdowns. I nearly got stuck far from home on a couple of occasions when lockdowns were suddenly declared and on another occasion, I had to traverse the entire state of New South Wales from North to South within 24 hours, only being permitted to stop to refuel. It was a challenging but fascinating experience driving around this vast continent in such surreal circumstances. Thankfully, I remained uninfected by the virus.

Christopher Rimmer - 'Near Callanna Station, South Australia'

How did you come across the subjects of your photographs – were they happened upon or did you seek them out?

Well, I did a lot of reading and research, both whilst on the road and before I left. I read the history of the doomed Ghan Railway and about the equally doomed soldier resettlement programs, so I had both of these histories as a contextual starting point but much of what has been included in Remnant was a result of happenstance. There is a very romantic history of the photographer on the road in search of subject matter and I wanted to be that guy. I drove all the way from Cann River in East Gippsland, up to Cape York and not a single photograph from this 5000 km round trip made it into the exhibition, but that’s how it goes sometimes in this game. On the second leg into the vast outback of South Australia, I came upon vistas that started to run parallel to what I had in my head and from then I was on an artistic roll, so to speak.

Christopher Rimmer - 'Platform 1, South Australia' 

A theme in this series is failed ambition. Why do you think ambition is an ambiguous, if not dangerous, drive?

I guess it is a question of limits; if ambition exists simply as a salve for our anxiety in respect to our sense of status, then it certainly can be dangerous, both psychologically and environmentally. I’m not suggesting that mankind retreat back to the Neolithic epoch, but I think ambition in the West has become tainted by gross ostentation, entitlement and hubris and is directly responsible for considerable environmental damage and destruction of habitat. 

I’m for simple living and taking only what you need. Only time endures in the end anyway and a casual walk through a cemetery and bearing witness to the pompous, crumbling memorials therein can serve to emphasise this simple truth, but all the while, the often-irreversible environmental destruction continues whilst the pursuit of this fundamentally flawed ideal continues. It’s a massive con and, it seems to me, the more urbanised the society, and the more it is exposed to the mass media, the more this is the case. It’s the mantra of constant economic growth and constant cradle to grave consumption with no long term idea regarding the cost. I hope the photographs included in Remnant show the ultimate futility of this idea.


Christopher Rimmer - 'Bush Cinema, Stuart, New South Wales' 

How did it feel to spend extended time in the outback?

I absolutely loved it, was sometimes frustrated by it and occasionally scared by it but regardless, I find the fact that you can jump in a car in the dark forests of East Gippsland, where I live and drive north west for three days to find yourself in an ancient, starkly beautiful, almost Martian landscape and yet be still in the same country, is just remarkable. I camped in some incredibly remote areas and I had to be completely self-sufficient. Planning is critical because there is no margin for error and a simple mistake can cost you dearly, sometimes with your life.

Christopher Rimmer - 'Near Cunnamulla, Queensland'

Did you come across anything unexpected in your journeys through the outback?

On occasion yes. In places, it’s like time stands still. I happened upon an old camp along Margaret Creek where a few intrepid individuals enjoyed a few bottles of beer around their camp fire back in the 1930’s. I imagine I was the only human being to pass that way since they departed, because the site seemed completely untouched save for what they had left behind and which I was able to date the camp by. 

I also found an impact crater, some five meters across which I assume was a small meteor. Around mound springs I found many, many Aboriginal stone tools, grinding stones and spear stones. I also may have located some space junk, but I am awaiting official confirmation on this. The Australian outback is a truly fascinating place, the quality of light, particularly at dusk and dawn is just breathtaking, the people who live out there are often real characters and couldn’t be more different from people you meet in say Melbourne or Sydney. There’s an undeniable harshness but also a stark beauty that is quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

Remnant is my sixth body of work and in many ways, its creation has been the highlight of my career.

Christopher Rimmer - 'Soldier Settlement, South Australia' 

Explore the full Remnant series here.

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