The Big Issue : Edition 462
THE BIG ISSUE 4 – 17 JULY 2014 27 IN MARCH 2009, The Big Issue published ‘Home on the Ridge’, an article and images by Lucy Di Paolo. It was a story about a quintessentially Australian outback town, Lightning Ridge (723km northwest of Sydney). And about Lucy’s mother, Marisol, who was born in Spain but later – after the end of a 27-year marriage – spent several years living in a caravan on a small campsite at the Ridge. Lucy, a photojournalist who was given her first camera by her mother, recalls how Marisol would sometimes telephone her during her early years. “My mother was quite lonely and often phoned me for comfort. Some nights she would beinbedby7pmtokeepwarm,asitwassocold from the bitter desert winds.” Sadly, a diagnosis of cancer (which led to her death at the age of 61, late in 2005) meant she had to leave the Ridge just when she had started to make some friendships and get involved with local activities, such as linedancing. Lucy’s own involvement with the opal-mining town began with a desire to learn more about the place her Spanish mother came to call home. Why, she wondered, did she “abandon the security and comforts of mainstream urban society for life in this harsh and remote mining town”? Then, over time, Lucy fell under the spell of the place herself, getting to know some of the locals and courting them with her camera. In Fragile Black Heart, the book she has now produced on her time there (Lucy has tried to return every year, around Easter, after living there in 2007–8), she writes: “There is always someone who has been to Lightning Ridge or has heard about the town. Some who have struck it lucky have no intention of leaving. There is something about the town that keeps people tied to that close community. It’s a place where hopes and dreams reign supreme and are sometimes fulfilled. Whether it be spiritual or material, the search can be rewarding.” She has come to believe that the “stereotype miner is a myth. Contrary to popular belief, these people come from a wide cross-section of society, cultures and backgrounds.” Everyone has their own story. She has seen people come and go. In her book she farewells some, like ‘Dooly’, who have died since she photographed them. Of ‘Dooly’ she says: “He had a welcoming smile and taught me about the vagaries of Lightning Ridge time.” by Alan Attwood » See lucydipaolo.com for further information about Fragile Black Heart, the book and an accompanying DVD in which Lightning Ridge people discuss the place and their lives.