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Brisbane Floods 2011 - Aftermath - The Key Turns And The Door Opens by Neil Ross

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Brisbane Floods 2011 - Aftermath - The Key Turns And The Door Opens by 

These photos have not been posted for their artistic merit; far from it. They are simply my personal account of the Brisbane Floods 2011 and how it has impacted my life. All photos have been taken in my local neighbourhood, no more than 500 metres from my home. I hope they are of interest to you.

Friday, January 14, 2011.

Pausing for what seems to be an eternity, I slide the key into the lock; the key turns and the door opens. Well, it actually needs to be forced so I give it a bloody good kick! It’s so swollen and the furniture is piled behind it. The first thing through the doorway is my camera.

This is my home in the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Fairfield. The river peaked two days prior (Wednesday, January 12, 2011) and the water has now subsided. Almost 5 feet of water went through the main section of the house, more in other parts at the rear of the property. The high-water mark can be seen on the rear wall.

I cannot begin to explain what I am experiencing at this point in time. I know I’m in shock and feel as if my heart has stopped. A couple of friends told me about their own flood experiences and although interesting, I couldn’t really relate to any of it emotionally… until now! I know I am not prepared for this and nothing could have prepared me short of first-hand experience. I don’t even think I’m breathing as I move through the doorway. Everything is in slow-motion, my head in a mental fog. When I do finally take a breath, the smell hits me and it’s beyond description. I think to myself ‘This is a stench I’m never going to forget.’ The mud is something else, almost like primordial swamp sludge mixed with olive oil. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it’s everywhere, over every conceivable surface touched by the water itself. Each step forward is calculated because this stuff is slippery!

Not only that, but the humidity is extreme and condensation is over absolutely everything, even the ceiling where large droplets of water have already formed. The windows are foggy and the kitchen bench tops and cupboards are swollen and distorted. I’ve been to quite a few tropical rainforests in the Australasian region, but it’s nothing compared to the humidity here. The air is completely saturated, it’s hot and dense… and my God it stinks!!! To think that only 3 days before, this had been my home; clean, comfortable, peaceful, calm, inviting. Now, it seems foreign to me. Now, its mood is dark and heavy. Everything I see before me has been laid to waste, all destined for the dump. Where’s the home that I left just 3 days ago, and what the hell is this? It looks like an ongoing experiment in the Chaos Theory! The feeling of being completely overwhelmed is so strong I can barely stand without holding on to something.

My friend and flat mate Phil is with me and I say to him "This was our home. What do we do now mate? How the hell do we clean this up? " He picks up on the fact that the tone of my voice is flat and replies “You’re the strong one. Don’t give up on me now.” I couldn’t help but snap back at him “For fuck’s sake, I’m fed up always being the strong one that everyone leans on!”… but somehow I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Anyway, I’d rather be the strong one because at least I know I can carry my own weight… and I’m going to need all that strength now. I know I need a plan but haven’t the faintest idea where to begin. I feel so helpless, and that’s unusual for me!

(B&W – Sepia) with a slight white balance blue shift and gaussian blur to add some contrast in what was otherwise a very dark undefined image. This is probably the worst photo I have ever taken so I’ve taken the liberty of tinkering just a bit to clean it up.

Photo taken with Canon IXUS 80 IS and edited with Lightzone. SIMPLICITY is my niche!

This is the very first picture taken upon my arrival back home. Rubbish is already being piled onto the kerbside and there’s plenty more to come. The road is slippery, the path and driveway is slippery, and I make my way up towards the house with a sense of absolute dread.

Original Image. Someone tell me PLEASE what are you meant do do with a photo like this??? I was in such a state when I took this shot I didn’t even notice the flash didn’t fire. It’s one of the most important photos in this flood collection, but definitely the worst photo ever taken by anyone, anywhere! I have tried everything but am limited in editing options with Lightzone.

I love anything that is unusual, unique, or just plain odd, and that’s the sort of image I try to capture. I’m so far from being the world’s best photographer it’s not funny, but I do have the photographer’s ‘eye’ and am more than proficient at capturing the images I see in my world. Thanks for taking the time to view my portfolio. Feel free to leave a message and say G’day.

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  • Vicki Ferrari
    Vicki Ferrarialmost 4 years ago

    Very sad Neil… the devastation that cannot be fully appreciated with an image… so happy that you could post this and I really don’t know what else to say except that I hope that life is settling down… Hope you saved your valuables?

  • Thanks very much Vicki. I got my cats out as they were my first priority. Everything else was secondary but I did get most of my valuables out. I took as many pics as I could knowing I would post them on RB. It’s simply my account of an event, one of many events that has affected so many Australians. I’m OK and moving forward :D

    – Neil Ross

  • Christina Backus
    Christina Backusalmost 4 years ago

    Your account of this tragedy is so moving – I am sure you will find the fortitude to recover but you will never forget. I wish you all the best.

  • I appreciate that so much Christina. Thank you. Life throws some curve balls at us and there’s nothing we can do but take it. Occasionally I like to hit the buggers. I feel positive and just take each day as it comes :D

    – Neil Ross

  • Lori Peters
    Lori Petersalmost 4 years ago

    I am so sorry for everyone affected by the flooding. I hope that things can get back to “normal” sometime soon. This is a very moving picture and a tribute to how powerful water can be.

  • I’m glad you like the pic Lori. It’s not the best photo ever taken, but for me it is probably the most meaningful. Your so right about the power of water. It is the great purifier and cleanser… even muddy old river water, and it has swept away all the unnecessary baggage that has accumulated over the years. In a way it has been quite a liberating experience because the load is much lighter. All I need do now is exercise patience until things are repaired :D

    – Neil Ross

  • Lori Peters
    Lori Petersalmost 4 years ago

    I have been through several hurricanes where there was flooding. The mud and water damage is horrible. The scariest part were the snakes and other undesirable creatures that got washed in. I know what you mean about starting over. My husband has so much stuff. I sometimes wish “something” would just take it all away. Don’t think you have to be strong all the time. Take it day by day -one room at a time.

  • Yeah they’re pretty full-on experiences. I was in the process of ‘lightening my load’ by giving away items of furniture, books, clothes, etc. prior to the flood hitting. A lot of the debris around the house were these items I had put aside. There had also been an accumulation of ‘other people’s stuff’ that had been dumped and forgotten, something that had always irritated me. After the flood, all this stuff had miraculously disappeared and I was so relieved to have a clean slate. You also mentioned the critters that got washed in. Same here. We had an 8 foot carpet python. As beautiful as she was, she just had to be relocated, namely for the sake of my neighbour’s daughter and my cats. The cane toad population has gone through the roof, and here they are a pest so I have been systematically dealing with them. Also now have 5 scrub turkeys. The cats have an uneasy truce with them at present.

    – Neil Ross

  • Tania1403
    Tania1403over 3 years ago

    Mother nature can so very cruel sometimes, my heart goes out to all who have suffered. Your images are all so very powerful it shows the devistation that you have all been through. It makes one wish we could just turn back the clock and mae it all go away.
    One day when life gets back to soem kind of normality you will have a collection of images to hand down to the future generation, just to show what life was like back in the good old days.
    Thankyou for sharing.

  • I felt impelled to document what was happening. People were still talking about the ‘74 floods and all of a sudden it’s happened again. For me it’s been a great way to deal with loss by processing the emotion of grief. Things happen for a reason and nature always has the final say. I feel liberated and optimistic now and have learned a lot from this event and yeah, will have something to hand down to others. Many here on RB will be able to do the same :D

    – Neil Ross

  • tori yule
    tori yuleover 3 years ago

    Your images show such devastating loss. I remember how upset I was when a hailstorm destroyed my garden until I realized how small that was compared to the loss other people experience. You show great fortitude in your handling of this, and it is an inspiration to me.
    Your series is not one to be enjoyed, but an important documentation of these floods to be passed on, and to remind us that our lives can change in an instant.

  • Thanks Tori. That’s an awesome comment and I appreciate it. You were right to feel upset by the loss of your garden. I know I would have been. The floods? Yeah it’s been a challenge but compared to some I’ve been let off lightly. It’s not what I thought would happen to me at this time of life, but I’ll bounce back… I always do. I just had to remind myself that there are many who are worse off than I am. I changed the bit about the photos being ‘enjoyed.’ I hadn’t really given much thought to that. As I said in my comment to Tania, this has been a great exercise for me to process grief; it’s really helped and has been important for me to document as much as I can. It’s been awesome self-help therapy. Bye for now :D

    – Neil Ross

  • Baina Masquelier
    Baina Masquelierover 3 years ago

    Again, thank you for sharing your stories and images with us. There is a lesson in every ‘thing’ that happens to us. Most important is that we have our life, our health, our family and friends, and that we remain a fruitful community, able to see lessons in life and help each other.

    I like the treatment you gave to this image. This may sound a bit weird, but it reminds me a bit of open coffins, where the deceased has been ‘cleaned up’ and made up, hence allowing us to say goodbye with a bit more ease. I once lost a colleague and finding his body was a shock. Seeing him all cleaned up and dressed up allowed me to have a clean image of him in my mind and I was able to say goodbye properly and grieve in peace. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you (there is always the delete button :-) Baina

  • No deletion required Baina, and thanks for sharing your experience. Posting these flood images and stories has helped me to process the experience and gain closure, the same way it was for you with your friend, allowing you to grieve in peace. Tough experiences but valuable ones that allow us to grow. They are certainly experiences that help us to rate our priorities and highlight the things in life that are truly important.

    – Neil Ross

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