Hana Petersen attends BIM-FBIP joint forum and explores the KZN Midlands

6 Sep 2019 - 11:15
Repeating an historical photograph at Wagendrift Dam, Estcourt, KZN. Photo credit: Hana Petersen


I recently presented the rePhotoSA project (which I coordinate) at the Biodiversity Information Management and Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (BIM-FBIP) joint forum on 19 – 22 August 2019. The forum focused largely on biodiversity open data supporting open science, technology and innovation, following the recent white paper on Science, Technology and Innovation. Several key sessions explored regional biodiversity information efforts in Africa, biodiversity information management priorities in museums and herbaria, and innovative tools and applications to support research and development. The rePhotoSA project fell within the latter session, and was well-received by the audience, resulting in interesting discussion and brainstorming as to how historical photographs can be used in other spheres of research.

Following this, accompanied by field assistant and fellow citizen scientist, Courtney Hundermark, I descended on the enchanting midlands of KwaZulu-Natal to repeat a suite of historical photographs in the area, by three different photographers: D Edwards in Estcourt, E J Moll near iNhlosane mountain, and U Nänni at Highmoor and Kamberg in the Maloti Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site.

The search for repeat photo sites took us along just under two-thousand kilometres of road, sometimes with potholes, sometimes breathtakingly scenic. It took us on foot along roads buzzing with freight trucks, along beautiful hiking trails now ashen after a burn, and bouldering several kilometres up some precariously steep slopes. It brought us into contact with several near-threatened species of plants and animals. And it served some incredible views, and photographs which we were grateful to have been repeating. But, pertinently, it brought us to the realisation that landscapes are changing, fast. Documenting these changes is becoming increasingly important to build baselines from which to compare the extent to which  we as humans are influencing the land we interact with, and realising that in order for our needs to be met, some landscape somewhere conveniently out of our sight, is changing. For better or for worse – browse through some of the rePhotoSA repeats and decide for yourself.


Article by Hana Petersen.