Fragile Black Heart is 56 page coffee table picture book that represents Lightning Ridge, outback NSW, Australia. It’s a story of my personal journey to discover why the Black Opal lured so many to abandon the security and comforts of mainstream urban society for life in this harsh and remote mining town.

• For each book sold a $2 donation will be given to outreach community centres in Lightning Ridge to help combat the social issues and domestic violence.

• BONUS included is a 30 minute DVD film about the people that inhabit Lightning Ridge.

• Limited edition collector's item.

Fragile Black 


Fragile Black Heart is a collection of photographs and a short film about the people of Lighting Ridge, NSW.

  Inspired by my late mother, Marisol Torres, a former resident of 'The Ridge' I embarked on a  personal journey to discover why the black opal lured my mother, just as it does so many others, to abandon the security and comforts of mainstream urban society for life in this harsh and remote mining town. After my mother's death in late 2005, she left her precious camp in Nebia Hill to me. I have spent two years from 2007 and  2008 interviewing and photographing the town and its people. This is my journey to understand my mother's passion for  'The Ridge', her fondness for its inhabitants, and her love affair with the mysterious black opal. The exhibition documents and celebrates the freedoms, cultures and characters. Each face tells a compelling story.

"Passion, pride and compassion are the words I think of when Lucy Di Paolo is mentioned. People of passion and compassion are rare birds. Lucy has both in spades as well as the courage and doggedness to make her vision become reality.”
~ Peter Simcock, editor Fairfax Community Newspapers, 1996-2010.


Di Paolo

At the age of 16 I told my mother my ambition was to be a photojournalist. With the little money my mother had, she bought me a camera and I was overjoyed. I avidly studied photographers I admired who had documented history in one form or another, to get a feel for what I wanted to do, and to see how photography could help change people’s lives. Even at that early age, I wanted to make a difference.

I enrolled at Melbourne University and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, majoring in Photography in 1993. It was a great achievement as out of 2000 applicants to the course, only 21 graduated. My photojournalist career kicked off with work for various newspapers and foreign press agencies and I have been learning and documenting ever since.

Lightning Ridge has played a large part in my journey. Since 2007 I sought the answer to one simple question, why were so many people attracted to the town? Was it the opals or the lifestyle? I also wanted to better understand my mother who had lived at ‘the Ridge’ for over 7 years. So in 2007 when I arrived back in ‘the Ridge’ after a 14-and-a-half hour drive from Melbourne, I simply beeped the car horn and asked whoever came out what brought them to the outback town. From diehard miners to lifestyle changers, their answers helped me to understand. Naming the book was easy. ‘Fragile’ refers to the opals, it is harder than glass but it is breakable, representing the people who have escaped war torn countries or seeking a more peaceful way of life. ‘Black’ because of the quality of the Lightning Ridge opals. And ‘Heart’ for my mother, and the town and its many good people. In 2009 I held an exhibition of photographs of Lightning Ridge which was a great success with many positive reviews. I try to visit the Ridge every Easter and locals often ask when will I return? I wanted to make this book so that everyone can have a piece of Fragile Black Heart. I hope you will like my journey.