Katoomba by Simon Ross


Saturday, 24 March 2018 by Simon Ross

On a voyage to catch up with friends I stop by Merrylands to pick up Michael. Michael has made his own Merry Land in this suburb firmly set in Sydney's sprawl and has created an oasis not just for his significant other and his little Luna and Millie, but an underworld that any film junkie would envy. A subterranean cavern full of twists and turns creating a sacred space where his visions emerge from the baths & rinses of his darkroom. Why would you leave this behind? Where would you go...

Penrith was still over the M4 horizon when he first stated how much he'd like to move to Katoomba. For the first time on this trip anyway. I've heard this before from Michael, I guess we all have our dream. I'm torn between a coffee cart in Philadelphia that I shut at 11am so I can photograph all day and a container home on a remote coastal strip in New Zealand... But Michael has made his dream a reality. He's moving there, looking forward to weather that can turn on a ten cent piece, mornings full of mist and mystery, blazing sun and bushfire evacuation plans, a real sense of community a rare place in this state where there's no rush to pull down history and replace it based on improved yields and tax concessions. You can still see traces of the 1920's up there, while the creative heart that beats is as contemporary and inclusive as any you'll find.

We made our way to meet Marty at a cafe overwhelmed by a surge in visitors, yet we were happy for them to take their time, catch their breath, give them a smile. It's that kind of place. We talked about our lives, our wives and children, and then like all troglodyte photographers, our ongoing affair with film cameras. I bought Marty's old Yashica 124G while Michael sat with a X-Pan around his neck. Marty rolled his thumb around his Olympus while I loaded the Ektar 120 that Michael shouted me as he knew there's nothing worse than having a camera with no film.

We bid farewell to Marty and wandered through a few sites I wanted to show Michael for an upcoming project. We reflected on the mood, the breeze, the atmosphere of this town. I used to have in-laws up here and I'd marvel at how wine I'd bring from Sydney would become slightly effervescent in the mountains, my theory was that it was the reduced air pressure at elevation allowing the bubbles to form and escape. Sometimes I think that's what Katoomba allows me to do, ideas form, float to the surface and move on out to the world.

Why wouldn't you want you to spend time there?

These shots were taken that day, on that Yashica 124G, on the 120 format Ektar 100 that Michael gave me. Developed at Vision Image Lab, scanned at home on my Epson V800 - which accounts for the dust!