Wee Waa, Daft Punk

Added on by Leah Robertson.

I feel like I'm still processing Wee Waa. What a blur. It was something I knew I wanted to shoot the moment it was announced, but the reality of making a Melbourne to very rural NSW trip eventuate seemed slim. I considered a road trip, but TheVine swooped in with a last minute offer - one that included a chartered plane into the region and various other sponsor perks (care of Sony and Smirnoff). Read editor Alyx Gorman's excellent and detailed account of the experience here and here.

The reason I wanted to go so badly wasn't really to do with me being a huge Daft Punk fan. I'm not, particularly. The concept was just so absurd and lovely that I had to see how it played out. The concept, of course, was that Daft Punk would launch their globally anticipated new album in remote Wee Waa, at the town's annual agricultural show.

The very brief amount of time I had to wander the town and meet with locals was without doubt the highlight of my trip. People were incredibly warm, occasionally wary. I chatted at length to Marilyn (pictured below with friends Carolyn and Carolyne) on her lawn, after which she checked if I was 'right for a drink'. A handful of footy-training kids took up a tiny portion of a vast, sun flooded oval. Little clumps of soggy cotton spotted the nature strips and gutters. A bunch of schoolgirls got off their bus, smiled politely as I passed then screamed 'DAFT PUNK!' from a safer distance. Later, illicitly drunk teenage boys would suffix their naughty comments with a formal 'Miss'. Like, 'Orgh, hey! You look nice in them pants, Miss!'

Over the course of the trip I had a couple of conversations, though, about the little bits of sadness that creep into visitors' experiences of small country towns. I felt a fair bit of it in Wee Waa. There's a lot I chose not to photograph because I only wanted a little of it to show. I was working for an entertainment website, after all.

I think, in general, the thing that makes me so melancholy about tiny towns is that evidence of people's lives is so much more prominent. It seems like there are more obvious stories attached to everything, with longer narratives. The woman who lives in that house has lived there for forty years, ten alone. The lazy ironbark out front's seen the kids grow and leave and come back on Sundays, sometimes. Things shuffle faster in the city, and places have more people attached to them. The stories are dispersed and the impact's lost. It's a noisy relief.

Something else, about this town in particular, is that the Indigenous population sits at fifteen percent - which is very unusual for someone used to Victoria's overall, miniscule 0.6 percent. As a photographer I get a bit anxious about how to photograph certain subjects, and Indigenous Australians are one such example. This is because photographers have done a pretty poor job in general of presenting this portion of the population through any lens aside from established cliche. There are photographers who have created fair bodies of work in Indigenous communities, but too many hunt for an easy victim/degradation angle, and too many others strip away current context to shoot a dress-up postcard. I'm really scared of falling into such groups, the first in particular.

It's probably not great to admit, but while I was in Wee Waa I interacted with more Indigenous people in a normal environment than I ever had before (if we can call a giant LED dancefloor a normal environment). And that was pretty unexpected and special. Thanks, Daft Punk.

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Pictures below shot very quickly (in one afternoon/evening) for TheVine in Wee Waa, at the annual show I'd go back to even without Daft Punk, and during the album launch. Which was a really bloody great time.