This is an early photo near Mantung in the South Australian Mallee. It was made in the 1980s with a Cambo 5×7 monorail and Kodak Tri-X film whilst I was staying in a house owned by some friends from Flinders University of South Australia.
I was studying at Flinders then–doing a BA in philosophy and visual arts and a PhD in philosophy. I recall driving to Mantung in the South Australian Mallee in the Kombi. I knew nothing about the Mallee then, and the natural-historical decay of the place was a bit of a shock to me.
When I was going through my scanned archives on the computer, this was one of the images that caught my eye. I’d completely forgotten about it. Re-seeing the images that I’d made at Mantung in the 1980s got me started, thinking about, and then working on the Mallee Routes project.
At this stage of the archival project I have only scanned some of the black and white archives –the large format negatives and the Bowden series. The rest of the negatives from this period currently sit in a filing cabinet waiting for me to scan them.
The idea behind the archival project is to select images for a possible book with Moon Arrow Press on Adelaide photography in the 1970s-200 period. The book has been talked about and sketched with the publisher, but nothing concrete has emerged. Both of us have been too busy with finishing off other books.
I recall at the time that the general cultural context around photography was still informed by that in Britain, in which there were a a number of little magazines dedicated to critical discussions of photography and related media in the 1980s. These included Screen, Screen Education, Camerawork, Creative Camera and Ten.8.
The character of the debate in the United Kingdom might be summed up in the title of a 1979 anthology, Photography/Politics: One, and in essays in this period by Victor Burgin and John Tagg that sought to reconcile a Marxist tradition with semiotics (including the earlier work of Barthes), psychoanalysis, and the work of Michel Foucault.This was an effort embodied in the influential 1982 volume Thinking Photography.