Under a Fatal Sun: Central New South Wales
“We are the message of all things. And the Beauty of our creation, of our art, is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls.” —Jonas Mekas
Last night I slept out in a spare caravan near a small copse of gum trees overlooking Albe’s house, a beautifully resurrected 100-year-old farmhouse surrounded by fruit trees and flowers. Inside are good kitchen smells, stacks of books and magazines and dozens of buddhas of all sizes.
His 19-year-old nephew Jamie, a surfer and professional herpetologist, has set up on the front paddock with his extensive reptile collection—goannas, geckos, blue-tongue lizards, diamond pythons and even, I’ve been told, a common death adder. Yesterday Jamie let me hold one of the blue tongues—a thick, foot-long reptile with a bulldog’s wedge head and a forked tongue the color of an old bruise. It weighed as much as a cat. Its pebbly skin felt strangely soft and through its scales I could feel the slow heartbeat of a small dinosaur newly awakened from winter’s hibernation.
Albe’s farm, all 60 acres of it, has two large gum-tree stands, two big fishing ponds and a huge expanse of mown paddock that hasn’t seen a sheep or cow or a pesticide for 25 years. He and his partner Margie, an ex-Sydney media power broker, plant fruit trees and flowers and encourage the local wildlife to have a run through the back paddock. I’m sure the local farmers get the shits the way he and Margie succor what the farmers consider to be noxious pests but the Falzons could care less. I looked out the window one morning and saw at least a dozen wallabies lolling under the jacaranda trees.
Rain blew throughout the day I pulled up so we sat near a gum-log fire, drank strong Darjeeling tea and bandied universals back and forth.
“Someone told me the other day that scientists had come to the conclusion that the color of the universe was the same as the ocean,” said Albe, poking at the fire. “It’s no wonder we feel at home in the ocean, deep inside a beautiful wave.”
Back in 1969, a 21-year-old Albe was walking through downtown Sydney and he unexpectedly fell in step with a pair of Catholic nuns. As conversations of these types go, it quickly evolved from “nice day, isn’t it?” to “what do you want to do with your life?” Albe answered: “I want to make a really beautiful film about surfing.” One of the nuns stepped in as Albe’s muse. “Then do it.”
“Morning of the Earth”, released in 1972, documented the first golden age of the shortboard revolution and gave the surf world its first-ever glimpse of entrancing culture and magic roping lefts of Uluwatu. It, more than any other surf film made to date, seems to exist in a timeless little bubble that resists aging or serious critique.
I’d been wondering what happened to Albe since he’d wrapped Morning of the Earth and started Tracks some 30 years ago. I knew he’d done a quasi-promo surf film (“Can’t Step Twice on the Same Piece of Water”) for Billabong about 10 years ago but reckoned he’d gone mainstream or walkabout years ago.
These days, however, Albe still surfs regularly near his central coast home and creates—or recreates— elegant picturebooks gleaned from the stockpile of photos he’s harvested over his career. He works at his big-screen Macintosh in a loft office draped with Tibetan prayer flags and the complete works of transcendentalist Alice Bailey. He’s just wrapped up a water-based ocean/surfing visual tone poem with master surf-photographer Jeff Hornbaker named “Globus.”
While his surf shots are heartbreakingly pure—taken in a time of warm green water, single fins and boards devoid of sponsorship decals—his travel documentary from subsequent treks to Burma, India, and Tibet are far more surreal and profound. His website, the dailylama.net (now deceased), features the works of transcendentalist Nicolas Roerich during his epic journey through the Himalayas in the early 1900s.
Albe has always afforded himself the luxury of doing things solely for their intrinsic enjoyment or spiritual value. Money, or least the pursuit of unrealistic amounts of it, doesn’t even seem to register on the “reason’s to do it” meter.
“Better to have a clean heart and soul and produce nothing than be an asshole and conquer the world.”