BOYA documentary photographer Hugh Brown and his camera have journeyed to some of the most remote and stunning locations on the planet.
The 46-year-old adventurer captures images of aspects of rapidly changing aspects of the world.
He has taken images across 30 countries after falling in to photography while living in WA’s Kimberley region in 1998, fresh from leaving a role as a management consultant for a US company.
“When I moved to the Kimberley, I was seeing such incredibly beautiful and remote places and I thought it important to capture them, so my camera came along everywhere with me until it eventually became my new calling,” he said.
His work has featured in Australian Geographic and been exhibited in China and South Africa.
While his photography initially centred on chasing the light, his desire to capture global change was fuelled by a strong sense of adventure.
“I set about going to remote places to which no photographer had ever been and it got me in to some pretty tight places more than once,” he said.
“I’ve crossed rivers at the height of their wet season flow and photographed in narrow 100-metre deep slot canyons in torrential rain to get the right shot.
“I’ve been hit by lightning, during a trip to the east of Marble Bar, and been bogged, alone, in a saltwater creek on the Canning Stock Route in 47 degree heat wondering how I was going to get out but it’s all been worth it.”
Hugh’s early work is showcased in four self-published books on the Kimberley and Pilbara regions, embracing the rich colours of gorges in Karijini National Park to lightning storms over the Hamersley Range, and pristine beaches along WA’s rugged coastline.
At one point he realised taking pretty photos would not be enough for him.
“In years past my work was a mix of landscape, aerial, portraiture and mining genres but now every aspect of what I do is about history and documenting this amazing world in which we live, from people to towns, occupations and landscapes,”he said.
He has two more books on the Pilbara region in the pipeline.
Another passion driving him over the past seven years has been a body of work he’s dubbed the Cruellest Earth project, documenting the lives of the 30 million artisanal miners across the world who search for prized minerals by hand in some of the most treacherous locations on the planet.
“In 2006, I undertook my first trip to Africa and that two-week visit opened my eyes to a much bigger and different world to the one that I had been exposed to up to that time.”
He said it was the first time he encountered men, women and children who mine under their own steam with little or no resources – and often risking their life in the process – in a bid to improve their lot in life.
“This project has changed my life – it has taught me not to judge and helped me understand what unites us all as human beings.
“These miners are no different to the person in the western world working 50-plus hour weeks to keep their family afloat and get them to a better economic position.”
The Cruellest Earth project has seen Hugh photograph miners in Cerro Rico, also known as the “mountain that eats men”, in Bolivia where over the past 470-odd years it’s estimated up to eight million lives have been lost while searching for silver.
He’s also risked his life to document the lives of miners looking for sulphur inside an active volcano in Java, Indonesia and those searching for gold in what equates to a gold rush in West Africa.
“In Pakistan, I’ve photographed the world’s highest altitude miners on ropes at nearly 5000 metres and negotiated with the mafia for access to locations in parts of India where illegal coal miners are to ensure the stories of these artisanal miners aren’t lost,” he said.
“If I’d known how hard this project was going to be, I probably wouldn’t have started but this work just seems incredibly important and now that I’ve begun, there’s no turning back.”
Hugh is focusing on pulling together the funds to undertake the final overseas trips required to complete the Cruellest Earth project.
For more details, visit www.cruellestearth.com.