Read: Tracks

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You probably know all about this little story, and so did I for the most part, but I still enjoyed reading this book. Robyn Davidson isn’t your typical human, so the idea of walking from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean was something she felt she just had to do. In case you have just arrived from another galaxy(Flemming) just know this means walking across the width of Western Australia. How far? The technical answer is A LONG F&^%$%$ WAY.

Tracks follows this storyline starting with her landing in Alice Springs with no money and no training with the most important piece of her journey’s puzzle…the camel. She faced the typical “You are gonna die out there,” help that people who love you seem to want to heap on you in the minutes before departure.

But there is a twist to this little story, one that makes it perfect for this particular site. Davidson realizes she doesn’t have the money to make the trip, so she writes a letter to the National Geographic. Not only does the NG say “Yep, we are interested,” but they want to send a photographer. Anyone who has been around photography since the 1980’s will know about Rick Smolan. His first assignment for the NG ends up being Robyn’s trek. Just as the tracks across WA are rutted and rough, so is the relationship between Robyn and Rick. She wants to be alone but needs the money, and he wants what every documentary photographer wants….full court press coverage. Her writing about the experience of being photographed is something worth reading, and oddly enough something that many photographers don’t really think about.

On a sidenote, during my trip to WA I ended up traveling through three of the towns that Robyn traveled through. I wish I had known this fact then. Wiluna, Meekatharra and Carnarvon.

This story was also turned into a feature film. And there is also a wonderful mixed media piece by Mediastorm.

Comments 6

  1. Just got back from a trip to Queensland and want to go back there already. In an attempt to quell the desire I started looking out for books on the outback. This looks perfect.

    Have you heard of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race? It’s starting this year and it’ll blow your mind.


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      That looks obscene. But great. My brother and I are going to do the Red River Century in September. I need to TRAIN.

  2. I read the book way back in 1999 I think, I actually think I read it in the outback somewhere near Kalgoorlie. I liked the movie ok, it was beautiful, almost too beautiful considering how insanely hard the trek must have been. But the book is amazing and so is Robyn. The struggles she had to face, the shit she would have had to endure in Alice in the 70s. Think I gotta reread this, been a while.

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      What really gets you is you realize the Outback was being consumed, even back then, and today the trek would be impossible. Cut up, divided, fenced, purchased, mined. The American West is way worse. And now we are about to put our public lands up for sale, believe it or not, and soon the wealthiest people in the world will own our country and our access will be GONE forever. Few notice, fewer less seem to care.

  3. I remember reading about this not too long ago and seeing some of the photographs used in the Nat Geo story. The photographs (probably Velvia) looked fantastic!

    A truly epic adventure.

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      Can almost guarantee those were shot on Kodachrome. Only other option at that time was Ektachrome, but the NG was famous for Kodachrome action. The stills are FANTASTIC. So is the multimedia piece by Mediastorm.

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