2018 Apr 28

Mother Thinks You’re Dead – Bobby Mills

Mother Thinks You're Dead is a photographic exploration of the Western Australian Goldfields, and an attempt to mine the complexities of it's landscape.

Words by Bobby Mills
Photographs by Bobby Mills

Physically the fields are dry, vast and remorseless, but beneath this surface is an inner landscape of searching that has continued for over 120 years. Gold was everything, and a lure that few could resist. Its value was often placed above that of water in a place where there was none, even above life itself. In the later half of the 19th century, discoveries of gold in the area resulted in large influxes of men, women and children, and towns and settlements began establishing as new finds spread across the fields. Within a decade 50,000 people were living and working across the goldfields, by 1900 the population had grown dramatically to 179 987.

The landscape rapidly began to change. Holes were dug into the ground, tracks and roads were laced through the bush, and new mounds of earth created an altered landscape.

Gold is still at the heart of this landscape; lone prospectors still wander whilst others dig out old shafts in search of something that may have been left behind. Industrial mines operate 24 hours and day, 365 days a year creating ever expanding scars in the landscape.
I wandered the Western Australian Goldfields with a large format view camera searching for the scratches left behind, and followed roads that trace old routes travelled by foot, bicycle and camel. Many towns are now gone, dismantled, moved and rebuilt time and time again as gold was found and emptied from the earth. Other towns mark places of great fortune and prosper as more earth and gold is extracted.

Whilst making this project I came across this missing persons note, published in one of the Goldfield’s first daily newspapers.
“Last heard of on Coolgardie Goldfields. Mother thinks your’re dead.”

More about Bobby Mills on his website.