The first thing you notice about Peat Island is the complete lack of graffiti. The occasional scratching by a past resident. Not graffiti, more an expression of their lives here.

Every building is nailed shut. Like a coffin. Exactly like a coffin. All dead for over 6 years when the last resident of this island/asylum left for the mainland.

The next thing you notice is the place is absolutely infested with enormous spiders. Their webs hung like nets to catch those not meant to be there. Honestly, I don’t think anyone is meant to be here.

I’m not exaggerating this. I’ve never in my whole life, seen a place where spiders have taken up residence like they have here. Almost like they waited for the last car to cross the bridge, then migrated en’masse. They are enormous too. Untroubled by the security guards responsible for the island.

I had spent months, a swag of emails, and phone calls to gain access to the island. Plead my case to the appropriate government department and finally arrived at the front gate.

Pressing the buzzer, I see the video camera watching me. “Yes?”. I said who I was. There was no reply.

The rain clouds rolled in and it began to sprinkle. Appropriate I thought…The place didn’t seem to me to have a ”happy” feel to it. …

The gate is unlocked by the onsite security, and you drive in. This is when you realize the true enormity of the place.

The Peat Island complex consists of the island itself, linked from the mainland by a long cold concrete bridge. There is also the mainland complex and another “housing” annexure, linked by a tunnel to another part of the estate.

Despite the stunning location the place definitely has a feel about it. It has a history, a past.

Years of unexplained deaths and tragedy… The feel of the place is not just what you can read about in Google… but something not quite right about being there.

Demons. Demons and spiders.

I’m not someone spooked by locations, but this is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to be at night.

Despite the appearance that the place was being regularly mowed, mother nature is too tough an opponent to stall her slow creep for long. You could see her beginning to take over, gradually strangling the place.

Even the paintings on the walls, fun animal murals seem somehow sinister here.

The raining kept sprinkling down….the spider’s and the ghosts of the place didn’t seem to mind…

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For more historical information on Peat Island see;

http://www.kgex.com.au/new-life-dark-history/

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So Victoria has Crohns Disease.

Actually…..

When you meet Victoria its more like she has Crohns tagging along to just keep life a bit more interesting. An unwanted challenge that she has accepted and is smashing its arse. Giving it faint hope….but laughing in it’s face. She laughs a lot. Six feet tall….if I was Crohns I’d just give up now. She has your number….

“I’ve been sick since I was six. I used to get sick all the time….It took them until I was seventeen to work out what it was.”

“I’ve had 20cm of my bowel removed. I have scars on my stomach.” She showed me the scars.

“I’ve got a creepy cat, Rodney.” Unrelated yet enthusiastically received information.

I have to agree….Rodney is like the cat from Pet Cemetery…..Church. I respect that. He is cranky, and possibly undead.

So why do you want to shoot with me?

She laughs ( again) and she is honest;

“Well I can be ok with myself as much as I want…but I will always feel like I’m hiding myself. This will put everything out there. Then I have no choice but to accept it….”

By the end of this shoot, you don’t even notice the scars. Just the smile. We aren’t just a sum of our scars. Victoria is proof of that.

This is what Victoria wrote for me;

“There is a very fixed idea of beauty when you’re a young woman, and when you suffer from a chronic disease like Crohn’s, that is essentially unattractive, an opportunity like this is a special one.

I have experienced severe illness over the past few years, so this is not only a new beginning in terms of my health, but of how I fit into a world that recognises beauty in such a limited way.

I have learnt to accept the hallmarks of this illness, but I also need to embrace them, and to not only broaden my idea of what’s beautiful, but hopefully other people’s as well.

This is not what beauty is, in a traditional sense, but it should be.”

I hope the photos bring you out of the shadows Victoria….where you belong….

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