Meet Your Maker | Peter MacDonald

Living in a small community in the northern Flinders Ranges keeps photographer Peter MacDonald very close to the landscapes he is so passionate about. The ranges are literally out the back door and within a few hours he can be on the Birdsville, Oodnadatta or Strzesleki tracks and the awe inspiring country that they lead to.

MacDonald has lived in the area for over 30 years and says, “The Flinders Ranges and the Outback have been in my blood for a long time. Many people visit, but having real contact with the country and the people makes a big difference and I want to show this in my photography.”

As a commercial pilot, MacDonald spent a decade observing Outback Australia from above. Seeing the landscape in this way inspired him to take up photography, to capture the drama and beauty he witnessed during this time. Now an accomplished artist, MacDonald produces both traditional landscapes and more abstract work documenting the brilliant colours and seductive contours of the land. He credits contemporary photographer Sebastião Salgado and Baroque painter Caravaggio as sources of inspiration.

This connection with the landscape runs deep and for MacDonald, “Knowing how the weather or the seasons affect the land makes a big difference. Understanding the geology, the fauna and flora and being able to see and touch it first hand. Learning from the people who make their lives here is so important.”

MacDonald aims to capture the times of abundance and the times of scarcity and is well known for his breathtaking imagery of the drought, the flooding and the drying of Lake Eyre over the last seven years. A challenge for MacDonald is how to present the vast scale of his landscapes within the confines of a framed image for exhibition.

Luckily though, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital has very long corridors and MacDonald’s work is featured in elongated prints throughout the RAH. So what is next for Peter MacDonald? “It’s hard to say, projects and commissions seem to find me and I take a Zen approach to these things. One thing is certain, I am unlikely to run out of material to photograph in my big backyard.”

Julianne Pierce
First appeared in The Adelaide Review