Even as a child, Taree’s Colleen Weller was fascinated with mushrooms.
Now she has translated that love, along with her passion for photography, into a coffee-table book of photos of what seems an infinite variety of stunning mushrooms and other fungi, all taken by her over 15 years in the Manning Valley, many of them in Wingham Brush.
“I’ve been interested in funghi all my life, because I lived in the country, and you’d see one that seemed like magic – it would just come up overnight after rain, but it was perfect and it didn’t last long,” Colleen says.
Colleen’s book is titled Fungi of the Manning Valley. She self-published it through Springwood Printery, and it was a true labour of love with Colleen doing all of the layout, taking many drafts.
I see beauty in a rock, or a stone, or a log, where not everybody does.Colleen Weller
“It took me a good long while to put the book together. It took about five drafts. They say there’s no perfect book, but I wanted a perfect book,” she says.
She is selling the book not to make money, but to share her love of photography and fungi with others. She is asking for only the cost of printing each copy, to recover her costs.
“I’ve sold well over a thousand dollars’ worth. It’s been very popular so far. It’s gone to Melbourne, it’s gone to Jambaroo… I’m quite surprised at the people that were interested” Colleen says.
Colleen sees her photographic subjects in artistic ways perhaps many others wouldn’t. She is also an artist who draws, and paints in oils.
“I see beauty in a rock, or a stone, or a log, where not everybody does,” Colleen says.
“I was bending over taking a photograph one day in the sand, and a friend said to me, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘taking a photo. There was a pattern.’ He said ‘I only see sand.’
“The repetitions of the patterns in the sand is fascinating and it draws things. I call it natures art, because it draws things like what’s under the seaweed; just the way it trickles down when the tide’s going out. It draws all sorts of wonderful things.
“I love the lichen, because you can see it on a tree, and it might just look like a smudge on the tree. And you don’t see the beauty until you go in close with a zoom,” she says.
It’s a story on the little coins he found, and the mushrooms, little pheasants, the first peach off the tree out of the orchard.Colleen Weller
Now that the fungi book is published, Colleen is hard at work getting another book of her photographic work together. This will feature general nature photography, with a mixture of landscapes and macro shots.
These photographic books are not Colleens first foray into publishing. Taree and Wingham libraries hold copies of one of her children’s books, My Dad’s Hat, that she wrote and illustrated.
“It’s a true story because my dad always wore a hat on the farm and when he saw the mushrooms to bring home, what did he put it in? The hat. It’s a story on the little coins he found, and the mushrooms, little pheasants, the first peach off the tree out of the orchard,” Colleen explains.
Fungi of the Manning Valley costs $33 and can be purchased at the Manning Valley Visitors Information Centre in Taree, and Not a Cafe in Wingham. Alternatively you can contact Colleen on 6552 1742.