We Need To Talk About Fire

Ruth Maddison | When No Birds Sing | Online Exhibition

When No Birds Sing, Ruth Maddison

"As I opened the car door, I was hit by silence. It was a physical thing and... nothing, nothing just nothing. It’s extraordinary because you think about all the sounds that you hear normally when you stand in the bush. You hear the wind, you hear leaves, you hear the birds, you hear the odd something. Is it a snake? Is it a skink? And you hear bigger things, a wallaby? That silence in that environment is wrong." - Ruth Maddison, September 2020

When No Birds Sing is a singular and poetic response to the recent bushfires that swept through the south coast of NSW. It marks both the epic scale of the destruction, as well as the tiny, everyday impacts upon the humans and animals that inhabited the landscape. Alongside the huge devastation, these direct and lyrical photographs mark the resilience and regeneration of individuals, communities, flora and fauna.

Ruth Maddison has, throughout her photographic practice, responded intuitively to the communities and environments she has lived in when a major event has occurred. Maddison and her family were at the heart of the bushfire disaster, and through these recent and deeply affecting works the viewer can see the immediacy of her photographs, as well as her self-taught technical prowess.

Maddison’s work explores themes of relationships, communities and families, offering glimpses into the daily lives and rituals of ordinary citizens within their home, workplace and neighbourhood. Her career spans more than 40 years of teaching, publishing and exhibiting. Since moving from Melbourne to Eden in 1996 her work has included intervened landscape, printed and sewn fabric, and video. Maddison’s work is held in many major state and national collections throughout Australia. A large-scale survey of her work is to be held at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne in 2021, with the assistance of the Australian Government through the Australia Council.

#whennobirdssing #ruthmaddison


A group of people stand at the kiosk. Someone is cooking on a barbecue.

Ruth Maddison, 'Kiosk at Eden sport’s oval. 7.03 am, 31 December 2019', 2019

Ruth Maddison photograph of a street with a dark orange sky, a cemetery is in the background.

Ruth Maddison, 'Walking towards Aslings Beach, 7:14 am, 31 December 2019', 2019

Ruth Maddison photograph a street with a hotel, dark orange sky

Ruth Maddison, 'Imlay Street, Eden. 1.44 pm, 31 December 2019', 2019

A streescape with trees and powerlines above. The sky behind is dark orange.

Ruth Maddison, 'Bass Street, Eden 1.45pm, 31 December 2019', 2019

Photograph of a room with bags and boxes of groceries covering the floor as people stand and walk around them.

Ruth Maddison, 'Volunteers sorting donated goods, clothes, food. Eden’s ex-Fishermen’s Co-op at Snug Cove opened for storage. 11.48am, 18 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of a table with trays of food, sweets and first aid materials.

Ruth Maddison, 'Free food at CWA Hall, Eden for all fire fighters. 11.59 am, 18 January 2020', 2020

A group of 7 people stand around, wearing NSW Rural Fire Service or police uniforms

Ruth Maddison, 'Imlay Street, Eden. A break for firefighters. 12.09 pm, 18 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of two men standing outside a shed, they are sorting through bags and boxes of materials.

Ruth Maddison, 'Inside the ex-Fishermen’s Co-op at Snug Cove. Volunteers sorting donated goods. 3.06pm, 18 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of a burned forest of trees

Ruth Maddison, Driving to Annette Evelyn’s property, Upper Kiah Road. 11.46 am, 19 January 2020, 2020

Photograph of a burned forest of trees, grey clouds are in the sky

Ruth Maddison, 'Driving to Annette Evelyn’s property, Upper Kiah Road. 11.47, 19 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of Annette Evelyn leaning against a blue ute parked infront of a burned forest of trees

Ruth Maddison, 'Annette Evelyn, Upper Kiah Road. 11.48, 19 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of a blue use and two people standing in a burned forest of trees

Ruth Maddison, 'Identifying dangerous trees on Annette’s property for removal, Kiah. 11.50, 19 January 2020', 2020

Annette Evelyn stands in the rubble of her burned house.

Ruth Maddison, 'The remains of Annette Evelyn’s house, Kiah. 12.11 pm, 19 January 2020', 2020

A person stands with their back to the camera facing a burned metal shed

Ruth Maddison, 'Remains of Annette’s shed, Kiah. 12.14, 19 January 2020', 2002

4 people stand in a group wearing orange pants and jackets that say SES

Ruth Maddison, 'Free barbeque for SES volunteers and Eden locals at Snug Cove wharf. 5.44 pm, 23 January 2020', 2020

Photograph of a group of trees, a large tree stands in the foreground covered with new green regrowth all over.

Ruth Maddison, 'Recovery on site of burnt Kiah Church, 10.55 am, 24 April 2020', 2020

Photograph of a burned forest of trees all with new green regrowth on the trees and ground

Ruth Maddison, 'Recovery, Upper Kiah Road. 11.02 am, 24 April 2020', 2020

3 people laying concrete, a ute and green trees are in the background

Ruth Maddison, 'Laying concrete for Annette’s new shed, Kiah. 8.57 am, 30 April 2020', 2020



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