The Port Macquarie region has recently acquired something it has been lacking for many years – an attractive picture book showing the features and visual highlights of the region. The author is David Martin, who self-published The Changing Face of Port Macquarie in 2012, then upgraded and revised the book as Port Macquarie Then & Now in 2014. Not having spoken with David for a while, we caught up with him to ask about the new project:
Hi David. You’ve been busy again on a new book!
Yes. It’s called Panoramic Port Macquarie – Australia’s First Resort. As the title suggests, the book focuses on panoramas, using them to show the beauty and diversity of the region.
But there is a lot of history in there too?
Yes, there is history in everything I do. After defining what a panorama is, the book follows the history through paintings and other artworks, and then the development of photography, and how photographic panoramas are constructed. At each stage, the relevance to Australia and the Hastings region is maintained as much as possible.
You have a few really interesting historical images in there …
I wanted to show the drawings that Phillip Parker King did when he visited the Hastings with John Oxley in 1819. They are not panoramas, but neither are they well known.
They would be the first artistic works of the region created by a European?
Exactly. To me, that sense of history is very important. I have also included the first panoramic paintings of the region. One is the only painting that was done of Port Macquarie as a convict colony. It has never been in print before; that is an important first for the book. The other big inclusion is a seven-fold panorama that was taken of Port Macquarie in 1890.
Yes, the foldout is amazing!
It is a very long panorama, and very few people have ever seen it before. It is an amazing find, and the image was actually taken by the Manager of the Bank of New South Wales – W. J. Mcdonnell. People really need to see it to believe it.
So where did you locate these items, David?
The paintings are in the State Library and the Library of Australia. The 1890 panorama came to me in pieces. I had a couple of the images, but only thought of them as individual photographs. But then as I have made more friends over the years, I have come across more and more that belong to the set, fitting together like a big jigsaw puzzle. I thought my images came from about 1885 but when you consider all seven panels as a single panorama, it dates almost certainly to 1890.
Has this been an exciting experience of discovery for you?
Yes, it has been. A new 240-degree view of the town in 1890! And it is exciting to be able to share it with everyone as an historical source in print for the first time. There remains the possibility of there being an eighth panel somewhere, but I have looked for a while now, and I think it is probably unlikely.
So, how much of the book deals with the history?
Only about a third. The larger portion looks at the region as it is today, divided up into small sections of three or four pages each. In many cases I give a small amount of essential information and then several pages of photos. There is a section on many of the main features or locations – a section on the Koala Hospital, one on Town Green, one on the Innes Ruins, one on Sea Acres, one of rural scenes, and the beaches and so forth. It is intended as a bicentennial record for the region, and as a collection of memories and information for locals, but also as a souvenir for visitors.
What were some of the challenges you faced in putting the book together – and how did you overcome them?
Well, I am not a photographer as such. But I wanted to learn some new photographic techniques that I had never tried before. I wanted to include as much diversity in the photographs as I could. I wanted to attach the history of panoramas and the development of photography to Australian and Port Macquarie history as much as I could.
I had considered doing a book called Postcards from Port Macquarie, because I have a large collection of historical postcards and they are very interesting. But it seems to be impossible to do because of photo clearances, so I inserted a very small portion of that project into this book. Each of those things were challenges.
There are always things like lack of funds, lack of experience and knowledge, and the need to learn new computer programs that you just have to tackle head on. If you let them discourage you, then the project never develops. So each one is an obstacle that you need to go over, around or through. I think of this as a steamroller mentality. I don’t move very fast, but there has to be progress every day, and if one avenue closes, then I move towards another.
Sometimes those challenges or obstacles take the form of people or administrations who would discourage you or not be cooperative. So I try not to give any person the power to stop me. The project is going to proceed, and their choice is whether or not they wish to contribute. Of course, people might not like being side-stepped, so you try to be as careful and respectful as possible.
What advice would you give to someone else considering producing their own book?
Basically, don’t let anything stop you. It’s your idea, your project. Complex things like books don’t evolve – they are created. And your skilled, creative mind will produce a work of art unlike any other. And when someone tells you how much your creation has meant to them and their families, it is a thrill like no other. You owe it to yourself to complete the project and make it the very best it can be. The satisfaction you gain will be life-changing.
You’ll be launching the book on Saturday 10th December. Describe what will happen at the book launch … will you be available for Q&A?
Yes, certainly. The book launch is at the Port Macquarie-Hastings Library on Saturday 10th December at 9:30am. Most of the time will be spent talking about the book, the creative process, how it came about, etc. But I will also spend a little time talking about the projects I have that are yet ahead. I rely very heavily on support from members of the community, and there are a number of ways in which people can make a very big contribution, without it costing a cent. So I will be introducing the new book, but also asking for help and information.
Where else can people have a look at the book?
I will have them for sale at most of the Foreshore markets and the Artist market for the next few months. They will be for sale at the Historical Courthouse, and Matt will also have them at PhotoWorks Express in the Galleria building. Or, you can call and leave me a message on 6583 4627 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking of future projects, what other creative ideas do you have bubbling away at the back of your mind?
There are always a million things going on back there! There are still about five book ideas ahead of me, although I don’t know if they will all reach completion. Each is somewhat dependant on the previous one. Immediately ahead is a book that examines a big collection of primary source materials, like personal recollections, maps, journals and audio recordings. Another one I have been working on for about ten years looks at the old shops of the main street – the blacksmiths, wheelwrights and mercery stores that used to be on old Horton Street. But, bringing these books alive and making them interesting and vivid is always a challenge.
For the bicentenary I hope to do a chronology – a year-by-year history from 1818 to 2018, although some will argue it should be 1821 to 2021. But a year-by-year history of Port Macquarie has never been written. I plan to do it!
One other, ultimate project involves video. I have a number of wonderful ideas that would be great as a visual documentary of the Port Macquarie-Hastings region. But I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have the old archive footage, and I don’t have the kind of funds necessary to make such a project happen. But these are some of the ideas I will talk about at the book launch.
Thanks David. Good luck with the book.
Interview by Jo Robinson.