The Balliang Tree

The Balliang Tree series began in August 2016 as heavy clouds were breaking overhead and I couldn’t help feeling we had just had the same kind of day. I began to wonder if we had both had the same kind of year, so I continued to photograph the tree over the next twelve months to see where it would lead.

I was taken though a dry summer with overbearing heat, a lush and productive spring, fires in April and all manner of cloud formations morphing together as time slowed down around me. All the while, the journey was also within.

Over the year, I came to reflect on the idea that some things in life will change while others remain the same, and I pondered the question….‘Where am I headed?’. Would I carry on for years as the same old me, or was it time to find a different paddock and make some changes in my life?

Some of those questions have now been answered, in part I have the tree to thank. So thank you Balliang tree, I will continue to visit when I can and watch the world go by.

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Balliang Tree August

Balliang Tree August
Storms pass, but over time they leave their mark. And so it is with life. I passed the tree as heavy clouds were about to break and couldn’t help feeling we’d both had the same kind of day.

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Balliang Tree September

The Balliang Tree
Skies alighten, growth surrounds.

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Balliang Tree October

The Balliang Tree
Life unfolds before me.

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Balliang Tree November

Balliang tree November
At times I’ve watched the shifting light for hours, yet only minutes seem to pass.

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Balliang Tree December

Balliang Tree December
I could watch the fields change year after year, only to find them back where they started.

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Balliang Tree January

Balliang Tree January
In the heat of summer

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Balliang Tree February

Balliang Tree February
Some days are a little foggy.

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Balliang Tree March

Balliang Tree March
The ever changing landscape.

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Balliang Tree April

Balliang Tree April
Paddocks in the area had been burning off for weeks. It was pure luck to catch this scene at dusk as the last of the flames still lingered.

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Balliang Tree May

Balliang Tree May
I’ve realised that being in the landscape brings experiences I would never anticipate. It’s usually worth stepping out to make the most of them.

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Balliang Tree June

Balliang Tree June
A quiet winter evening.

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Balliang Tree July

Balliang Tree July
In the midst of life.

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Behind the scenes…

The ‘Balliang‘ tree is located south west of Melbourne near the You Yangs, in a little known area called Balliang. It’s not far from an old workplace of mine which is why I found myself in the area. Other than some crops, cows and sheep, you could say there’s not much to see.

I was going through a challenging time, working hard and under pressure. My work had a lot of positives but I felt ground down after many years. Designing and testing cars could be fun, but it felt like people were growing old and grey in front of me, day after day and year after year. I didn’t want that to be me. I began to realise that something had to change. Looking back, it sounds like a mid life crisis if they really exist, and it probably didn’t help that my mum passed away when I was young, which taught me early that life is short and precious.

Seeing the Balliang tree standing there in the paddock gave me some perspective, somehow I sympathised with it, weathering storms as the seasons passed. It gave me a way to reflect on things. At the beginning, I didn’t know how to approach the series or what I would make of it, so I spent my time making photographs from many different angles as the clouds and shadows passed, day after day and month after month. The variations in shape and gesture of the tree have come about because of this approach. Sometimes I would watch for hours, which would only feel like minutes, deep in thought as I saw the world go by.

The images in this series have been edited to reflect on the feelings and questions I had at the time, making them more artistic than documentary in nature. I just hope that the series is enjoyable and can inspire reflection in other peoples worlds.

John with Balliang tree
Balliang tree selife

John Hardiman
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