Jeff Powis began travelling the world in 1985. While he ran out of money, clothes without holes and the need to work in an office again, he always had a least one frame left in his camera. He enjoyed the luck of the traveler. Things just seemed to happen. While working on the Australian movie Dead Calm in 1987, he began to look at taking pictures more seriously. Restless by nature, Powis was always on the move. He sailed across the South Pacific Ocean on a 44-foot yacht in 1986, hitchhiked across America in 1990 and burst his motorcycle for years around hairpin turns on the back-roads of Japan. On the 1992 Freedom Tour he rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle through Russia and the Baltic States. Enthusiasm, curiosity and reckless abandon fueled his years on the road, camera in hand.
The road taught tough lessons. They would help him when, in 2000, Powis had the original idea to film Edward Burtynsky as he made his compelling, large-format photographs and started doing so in the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh in 2001. He filmed Burtynsky in the demolished cities up the Yangtze river from the Three Gorges Dam in China. In helicopters over L.A. On scissor-lifts in Iowa. Through oilfields in California. Into the e-waste industry back in China. Powis says, “I am a very fortunate person to have been filming Burtynsky in places that are largely gone or have changed so drastically now. To be present when Ed was ‘seeing’ a picture and to witness his process was a privilege. I am proud that I was able to record this very special time in the history of photography with him. It was also a humbling experience: if I could ever make one picture that he would consider a ‘first-select’ I’d be happy.”
Powis believes movement is noble, and to try to photograph it a noble art, “Without movement we wouldn’t be here. Movement creates an equilibrium that gives us all peace. There’s a reason rocking a crying baby puts it to sleep. Movement is our antidote to whatever ails us. It puts us at ease. There is a reason we call a thing that kills us a ‘disease’,,,dis-ease. One of our most powerful cures is to walk. There is something about that pace. So how do you make friends with anyone on the planet? Go for a walk together. ” One element throughout all of Powis’ favourite work is that things are somehow in motion, convey the idea of motion or simply, he is in motion. He asks, “Can my pictures induce that equilibrium we feel when we are actually moving? I can’t say. I hope so. All I know is the adventure to make them moves me.”