Long Story Short: Martine Perret
SHE left her native France with dreams of travelling the world as a humanitarian aid worker. But along the way, Martine Perret picked up a camera and her life was never the same. Years of documenting the war-torn regions of Africa and the newly independent East Timor for the United Nations somehow led her to Margaret River where she immediately set to work documenting our beautiful region from the one place she feels most comfortable, the air. This is her Long Story Short
By Anthony Pancia
G’day, I’m… Martine Perret
I was born… in Paris… but now live in… Margaret River.
Growing up in… the South West of France, my life was shared between Bordeaux and Arcachon, in the Bay of Biscay. Bordeaux was where I was went to school and Arcachon was where our weekend beach home was.
Photography came much later in life… I was more interested in travelling, seeing the world and doing humanitarian work, dreaming of going places like India and Burma.
Photo: Martine Perret
My very first shots… were actually taken when I was working in China in 1989, six months after the Tiananmen Square incidents. I was only 19, there were no tourists then and I was biking around Beijing with a small film camera. I’d approach locals with my broken Chinese, however most of the locals were a bit shy and wouldn’t talk to a foreigner back then. China was under martial law, it was all so new to me.
Some of my earliest influences were… the incredible work of Sebastiao Salgado and James Nachtwey.
The first shot that made me think I could make a career out of photography… was taken in Timor Leste in 2002. It was a black and white shot of children playing in mud (below). I shot it on Scala slide film. I had left Sydney to cover the East Timor Independence celebrations and I think that’s when I decided to pack up and live there freelancing before I joined the United Nations in 2004.
Photo: Martine Perret
My career then… took a turn when I was asked to join the UN as a volunteer to document the peacekeeping mission in Burundi, Africa. Then I took a break for another year and went to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, to document my own stories about a fisherman and his daughter who had survived the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
In 2006… I was invited to join the UN Peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa. That experience was both crazy and interesting! Most of my time was spent in the eastern part of Congo, covering various human rights, election and disarmament issues. There were at least three infamous rebel armed groups with child soldiers in the region where we lived. We would often meet them, often there be a leader with his little group of men, all holding guns. Some of them wore blond wigs – it looked very surreal.
Photos: Martine Perret
From there… I went back to Timor Leste before my final mission in South Sudan, Africa.
The furthest I’ve ever felt from home was… as soon as I left home aged 19. I’ve kept on moving and travelling and basically never went home-unless visiting family.
And the most dangerous situation I’ve ever been in was… back in Congo, Africa while working as a photographer for the UN. In 2007 government troops and forces loyal to the opposition leader clashed in the capital Kinshasa, resulting in hundreds of deaths. I followed the peacekeepers who extracted those trapped in the city. We got shot at and were close to falling bombs. It was a very scary and stressful time.
So I moved to Australia… because of the wide open spaces.
Photo: Martine Perret
And now I’ve decided… to release a book. I often flew in helicopters while with the UN and I got used to seeing the earth from high above. When I moved here in December, I jumped in a helicopter straight away. I couldn’t wait to see how Margaret River looked from the air. That’s what this book is all about, Margaret River from the air.
My reaction to the first couple shots was… Whoa, that’s pretty cool!
Putting a book together is… a pretty full on experience. The Emergence Creative Festival definitely planted a seed and then I decided to jump in. As soon as I started, I realised there was no turning back.
After the book is released… I’m really looking forward to chilling out.
Oh, and one last thing… After all the years I spent in war torn countries, I feel very fortunate to live where I live and call Margaret River home.
Join Martine for her book launch this Saturday between 6-8pm at Margaret River Gallery, Shop 4/1 Charles West Avenue. Her work will be on display at the gallery until August 4.
For more of Martine’s work go to the 34° South Photography website – www.34degreessouth.com