Wave-breaking music

Victorian-based surf photographer and videographer Jon Frank has been to some of the best locations in the world in a bid to capture his ethereal images of ocean waves.

However, a trip to Ningaloo Reef, a fringing coral reef 1200 kilometres north of Perth, in May 2012 stands out in his 20-year career.

Frank was part of an ambitious project spearheaded by the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), Richard Tognetti, that involved taking musicians and surfers to the remote coastal and desert landscape of northern Western Australia to create a new performance piece titled The Reef.

The two-week creative experience led to the production of a multimedia concert that uses music performed live by the ACO and surfing footage taken by Frank and Mick Sowry to explore the links between surfing, the ocean, landscape and music.

The Reef opened in Darwin last year and will be performed in Wollongong's Town Hall next week.

Frank, director of photography for The Reef, says the experience was inspiring because of the location, the diverse choice of music, and the collaboration process with the assembled crew of artists.

"I've been to the north-west desert before and surfed around that area where we shot The Reef," says Frank in a phone interview from his Torquay home.

"It's a pretty iconic location as far as Australian surfing goes. It's kind of a legendary place in that it is quite isolated and quite removed from much of the surfing experience that you get in Australia, which is often east coast, close to towns, and often in cities like Sydney.

"[Ningaloo] is very different from anywhere else that the average Australian surfer would venture to.

"In that regard, the landscape particularly is a place where all pretence, all distraction and all normal day-to-day life gets completely stripped away and you are basically left with the elements, the land and the sea.

"You're living really simply up there. It's food, sleep, and surfing."

Frank says the physical beauty of the coral reef, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and the absence of modern-day distractions was conducive to his creative experience.

"You can't help but be overwhelmed by the landscape up there and by the ocean," he says.

"It's a long drive. We drove up from Perth and it takes a lot of time to get there.

"You don't land in a plane, get out of an airconditioned cabin, and you're there in 20 minutes. You have a lot of time to sit and think."

Frank has previously worked with Tognetti to create classical music concerts featuring large-format projections of motion pictures and still images.

Yet The Reef has been the most adventurous project to date.

"This production was working with a director [Mick Sowry] and a pretty big crew of surfers and musicians.

"There was more than 20 of us in the desert," says Frank.

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