The Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book begins

Today I  started work in a rather  low key way on the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book that  Adam Dutkiewicz and I will   work on  together after he finishes Volume 2 of A Visual History: the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016.  The  Adelaide Photography book is to be published by  Moon Arrow Press, and   hopefully, if all goes well with the contributions from the Adelaide art photographers in this period   it will be published in late 2018. The book builds  on the Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice book that Adam and I published  in 2016.

Low key here means that I contacted several  people to see if they were interested in their work  being a part of the project;  and secondly, I  have started to read some tough going texts on aesthetics  that I’d  borrowed from the Flinders University of South Australia’s Library to help me  write an  essay on the aesthetics  of art photography for the book. The  questions I am addressing in the essay are: ‘what are  the aesthetic underpinnings for an autonomous  art photography after  it  has been accepted and incorporated into the  art institution? Secondly, if art is a form of rationality as  is assumed, then how does art’s rationality differ from the rationality of the natural sciences and economic rationality?

Adelaide plains

As well as the aesthetics essay there will be an art historical essay about the photography of this period. The centre of the book  is the portfolios of (approximately) 12 photographers which each photographer has about 4-6 pages for their pictures  including  an artist statement about their work.

Robert McFarlane has agreed to contribute to the book,  and his work  makes  an  ideal  start  to the book’s  portfolio section. In an essay written for Robert McFarlane’s Received Moments: Photography  1961-2009 (circa 2009) travelling exhibition Gael Newton addressed one of the many gaps in her influential historical survey, Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988, which was published in 1988. She says that McFarlane was:

a significant member of the somewhat neglected generation of Australian photographers whose careers began in the late fifties and early sixties. They slip between pre-war modernists and pioneer photojournalists like David Moore, and the ‘baby boomer’ personal documentary photographers of the 1970s who claimed photography as their medium and dismissed photographers of the recent past. The young photographers of the seventies – mostly using modern 35mm reflex cameras – redefined documentary photography as a subjective form of witness. Their preference was to show their work in books and art exhibitions rather than in mass market picture magazines.

In a footnote Newton mentioned that this “neglected group includes classic landscape photographers: John Cato (Melbourne), Richard Woldendorp (Perth), Wesley Stacey (all over Australia) and architecture and topographical artists John Gollings (Melbourne and Asia), and Richard Stringer (Queensland). The group includes documentary photographers Jeff Carter (South Coast, New South Wales) and John Williams (Tasmania). ”

It is good to see the acknowledgment  of topographical photography. It’s recognition in the Australian  art institution is long overdue.   Continue reading

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from street to topographic photography

In looking over the non-Bowden  1980’s  photographic archives  for the proposed book on Adelaide photography  I realised that I was in the process of making  a shift  from  the then  fashionable  street  style photography of the 1970s to  a more topographic approach. Fashionable in the sense that New York in the 1960s was the centre of  photography with  Winogrand, Friedlander and Meyerowitz  laying down  the classic grooves for street photography.

This is an example of the street  photography  in Adelaide’s CBD that was made from a public space in the 1980s:

Franklin St, Adelaide

Street photography  is   candid photography –in this case it is a photo  of an office worker walking west along Franklin St after  leaving  the office in the late afternoon. This was  during an Adelaide  summer and it was a time  when white socks and sandals were the  summer fashion for men.  This fashion was much more practical in 40 degrees heat  than the traditional tie and suit.

Continue reading

art photography + aesthetics

In the early part of  the 1970-2000 period photography in Adelaide  overcame its traditional  banishment by the art institution.  It  was finally recognised as potentially being a medium in its own right as an art form that had its own intrinsic qualities and capital value, which  could be collected and subject to critical and art historical scrutiny. Photography, for instance,  made a modest appearance in Christopher Allen’s 1997 text Art in Australia: From Colonisation to Postmodernism, where  Sue Ford, Ponch Hawkes and Carol Jerrems  were mentioned in relation to the women’s art movement in the 1970s  and Anne Zahalka, Fiona Hall and Bill Henson were mentioned in relation to postmodernism in the 1980s.

Art photography  became a part of the culture of the modernist art institution  (largely shaped  by  MOMA) where art is  framed and appears as autonomous; both as something apart from the everyday world and only  referring to its own  history,  dynamics and language.   What underpins this is the modernist idea of art as an uninterrupted continuum laid out in a suite of connected rooms in an art gallery that functions as a museum.

Dry Creek, Adelaide

Photography  became incorporated into  aesthetic concerns that were over and above its traditional documentary and vernacular status in popular culture premised on its close association through the referent with the real. So it traditionally points to a world outside itself, not just to itself or its own history, even as its mechanical reproduceability undermined the aura of painting.  When photography is  collected and exhibited in the art institution the outside world becomes inside the art gallery, thereby undercutting the art institution’s formalist construction of the autonomy of art.  The rhetoric of aesthetic autonomy and subjectivity were transferred to photography, albeit uneasily, given the exhaustion of a formalist modernism that framed art’s autonomy by removing it from any social context and presenting it as outstanding works of fine art. Photography exceeds the boundaries of the traditional discourse of the art institution.

This was a period of the rupture with  modernism, in  which  postmodern art practices (especially feminist) after the 1980s were predominantly supported by  a body of theory derived from a poststructuralist assemblage of  semiotics, psychoanalysis and identity politics; or alternatively  by a re-inscription of the photographic into a critique of postmodern media culture general.  Art was no longer a matter of taste. The marginalisation of work by women and aboriginal people by the art institution was the significant point of departure for the creation of alternative practices that were critical of  a conservative culture and politics that separates aesthetics from politics. Continue reading

Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-2000

The next stage in the archive project after The Bowden Archives  is a book with Adam Dutkiewicz entitled Adelaide Photography: from the 1970s –2000 to be published by Moon Arrow Press.  It is a  historical project that is a step to filling in the large  gaps in the history of Australian photography and Adelaide’s late 20th century visual culture.

Tree, South Rd, Adelaide

Adam and I have talked about starting work on the Adelaide photography  book after he has completed  A Visual History of  the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016 Volume 2 book.  At this stage the start would be  towards the end of 2017,  or the beginning of 2018. Continue reading

The Bowden Archives: a draft

Thanks to the  generous help  of my friends, Judith Crispin, Stuart Murdoch, Paul Atkins at Atkins Photo Lab and Adam Dutkiewicz at Moon Arrow Press  I now have a first draft of the Bowden Archives: Memory,  Text,  Place. The pictures have  a narrative of their own now and some sort of coherence. That was something I could not do on my own, as I was too close to the pictures.

Warehouse, Bowden

The next step for me is to  follow Adam’s advice and do a dummy book  using  BookWright,  Blurb’s free desktop software, in order  to see what  the draft with images and text looks like as a book— as opposed to an idea in my head, or Stuart’s step—   rough prints on sheets of folded up paper to have an tactile object in my hand as opposed to images on a computer screen.   Continue reading

still life

I had a rudimentary studio setup whilst I was living and photographing in Bowden in the 1980s. There was a a table, a dark cloth as  a background,  available window light,  a 5×7 Cambo monorail,  the odd prop,  and a solid Linhof tripod.

However,  I didn’t do much with the setup. I made a  few portraits  and some still lives,  such as this one of a  banksia, which  I’d  purchased at the Adelaide Central Market and then a lowed to dry:

banksia still life

The results were okay,  and  I realised that I could do the studio stuff, even though the studio situation wasn’t ideal.  The available window light was minimal,  the exposures for the 5×7 Cambo monorail where very  long (several hours), and  the house shook if a truck went past on Gibson Street.  So  I’d have to start the photo shoot again.  It was all too difficult really.  Continue reading

suburbia, northern Adelaide

In the previous post I mentioned that I would now concentrate on other images from the archives now that The Bowden Archives  has all the images it needs. I have recently been mulling over what to do with these non-Bowden images,  and I have decided that some will go into the Adelaide book whilst the others will go towards a new book project with Moon Arrow Press.

suburbia, northern Adelaide

This is the independent  press  run by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz and which published my Abstract Photography book in 2016.  Adam and I had a chat about this Adelaide photography book recently,   and we tentatively agreed  to start working on  it next year,  after  he finishes Volume 2 of the Visual History of the Royal South Australia Society of Arts book.    Continue reading