The stories he selects are most often ones that capture the tension inherent in the ‘civilisation’ of wild country, that is, those that reveal a bit of the wild in the civiliser and the immutability of the wilderness.
They are also often stories that are momentous yet largely unknown - they are the lost legends of our history. Sorensen’s process takes him to the sites where these events took place, where he attempts to capture the anxiety of their protagonists through images of the landscapes that are not just backdrops to these stories, but protagonists themselves.
Sorensen’s photographs in ‘Stranger in a Southern Land’ focus on the story of David and Emily Joel. In April 1918, David Joel, an eccentric Sydney bookmaker, broke his mentally ill wife out of Kirkbride Asylum and took her by train to the Blue Mountains in a last ditch attempt to ‘cure' her of her affliction. The couple disappeared from their hotel after deciding to 'take the mountain air' around 9pm. Two days later, a farmer found Emily Joel wandering the misty bushland with torn clothing and no shoes. When he asked if she was ok, she simply turned to him and replied ‘I get some some terrible frights here' and again disappeared into the bush. Mrs Joel was found again 3 days later, conscious, almost naked and suffering from what was probably hypothermia. She died 7 days later in a Penrith hospital without saying a word. No trace of David Joel has ever been found.
Kurt Sorensen is a graduate of the Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney). He has exhibited extensively over the last five years, including several solo shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. His work is held in several public and private collections and was recently selected by presenter and broadcaster Fenella Kernebone as her highlight of the Artbank collection in a video series produced by the organisation.