When going through my large format archives the other day I came across some images I’d made of the River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri) as it flowed through the Adelaide Parklands near Coopers Brewery on the corner of Port Rd and Park Terrace.
I often wandered around this section of the parklands when I was living in Bowden, as it was just a few minutes walk from the studio in Gibson St, and so much quicker to access than the seaside beaches or Port Adelaide.
I would often walk Fiche, my standard poodle, there in the morning or in the afternoon. We would usually walk through Park 27A (now known as the John E. Brown Park) across the Railway Bridge, to the weir at the base of Torrens Lake. Sometimes we would skirt around the Adelaide Gaol on our way to the Morphett St Bridge, Elder Park and the Festival Centre.
This picture from the 1980s archives represents a change in the way that I had been photographing. It signifies a shift from the street photography and landscapes I had been doing previously to a more topographics style of photography:
It was a slow shift, as I was pretty much working blind. At this stage I was more or less trying to find suitable subject matter to photograph with the 5×7 Cambo view camera. I was slowly finding my feet photographing Adelaide as a place, and I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of a topographic photography of altered landscapes in Adelaide. Continue reading →
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?
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, whichwas 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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 →
Once I’d purchased a VW Kombi I was able to make little road trips outside of the city, I started exploring around the Adelaide Hills and the Mt Lofty Ranges. I was stunned to see how small the city of Adelaide actually was sitting on the Adelaide plains. It really was an isolated, provincial city when compared to Melbourne and Sydney. It was easy to see how it was becoming marginalised.
I was shocked by how barren or stripped the landscape was. The colonial settler society’s ethos of men’s mastery of nature resulted the trees being few and far between in many places. It was a reminder of the significance of agriculture prior to the emergence of manufacturing after 1945. Most land clearing occurred from the turn of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. The post World War 2 land development boom has seen the clearance of hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation in the agricultural regions of the State. By the 1980s over 70 per cent of the land had been cleared. The land tax favoured the clearing of native vegetation not its conservation. Continue reading →
As Adelaide was in the process of becoming a post-industrial city haunted by the decline of its manufacturing industry and growing working-class disaffection its only genuine gathering place–or piazza— for people was the beach side suburb of Glenelg. It was a place where people accepted their differences to enjoy their leisure with picnics, bathing and walking in the sun.
The tram route from Victoria Square to Moseley Square in Glenelg was all that remained of Adelaide’s tramways network. This had been pulled up to make way for the motorcar. The tram was basically for tourists. During the summer the tram was packed with people going to and from the beach for a day’s outing. I would often catch it to Glenelg in the afternoon to hang out on the piazza with my cameras. Continue reading →
Past Futures is the working title for the third section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia. This section maps the space outside of Adelaide’s CBD and Bowden-Brompton. It represents an escape from the confines of the city, sometimes in the form of day trips to the Adelaide Hills and Mt Lofty Ranges; trips to Melbourne and along the River Murray.
Escaping the confines of Bowden during the summer heat was necessary and I would often go to Adelaide’s coastal beaches in the late afternoon. I would usually park the Kombi at Largs Bay in the late afternoon and walk along the flat open stretch of sand to North Haven and back with Fichte, my standard poodle.
This was a time when people sunbathed on the beach and they didn’t really worry about effective sunscreen to prevent melanomas and skin cancer, even though the Slip, Slop, Slap! health campaign was launched in 1981 by the Cancer Council as part of its SunSmart campaign. The beach was a hedonistic holiday zone–a shared space of relaxation–with minimal shade from the burning sun. Continue reading →
I only made a few portraits of people in the city of Adelaide during the 1980s.
One place was Valentino’s Restaurant in Gays Arcade, off Adelaide Arcade, near Twin Street. My sister used to work there as a waitress whilst she was studying at Flinders University of South Australia for a social workers degree. I got to know the people working there, as I used to drop in for a quick meal when I’d been strolling around the CBD, reading the street, and photographing in the city as if I were a tourist visiting Adelaide.
The meals were cheap then. $5.50 with a glass of wine. In many ways it was a taken for granted space of a given historical period infused with meanings, experiences and memories; part of the patchwork quilt of traces of human existence that makes a city more than its buildings, transportation networks, rivers, and parks. Continue reading →