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.

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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

The Adelaide hills

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.

city + plains, Adelaide

city + plains, Adelaide

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

city strolling

Most of the images in the Adelaide section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia come from city strolling with a camera in the company of Fichte,  my cream coloured,  standard poodle.   City strolling is a translation of the French term flânerie, and it  is an aimless rambling and drifting in the labyrinth of the big  city of modernity  that involves a ludic engagement with the city.

Strolling has no goal,  and it involves   poeticizing what we come across in our aimless drifting.   We invest in our power of imagination  and  attribute meaning to the changing phenomena around us as in the shops in Rundle Mall.

Witchery, Rundle Mall

Witchery, Rundle Mall

My city  strolling  through the city  crowd was not just a  moving through the industrial  city, but rather a  concentration on the displays  exhibited in the  store fronts. These form a dreamscape–a mythic,  re-enchantmen of the banal city.   City strolling is not just a practice of walking and watching but also a way of theorizing and  photographing.  It is a cultural activity.  Continue reading

Torrens Power Station

This Torrens Power Station image is from the incompleted Port Adelaide  project.  It was made prior to the  photography being eclipsed by digital media. This sees photography  as the obsolete, 19th- century technology that practitioners, occasionally frustrated by its limitations, have long suspected it to be.

 The picture  was produced at a time when  conventional  art histories  continued to represent the modern era as a perpetual artistic battle between reactionary naturalists and a progressive, anti-realist avant-garde. The linear history is one from  mimetic illusion to experimental modes of realism and  then abstraction.
Torrens Power Station

Torrens Power Station

Peter Galassi’s argument in Before Photography rejects the conventional  narrative that characterizes photography’s invention as a predominantly technical or scientific achievement.Photography has largely sought to define itself as distinct and separate from the traditions of painted pictures. The reasons for this are many but the view of photography as a purely technical invention has been central to this emphasis on discontinuity and difference.

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Holden, Mantung

Like the two other images   from the Mantung photoshoot in the South Australian Mallee in the early 1990s this image   was also  made with a Cambo 5×7 monorail and  Kodak black and white  Tri-X film.

This image was made about the time that  photography, whether as historical object or professional practice, was becoming fully institutionalised; that is in the process of finding a secure niche in universities, art schools, art museums, and the marketplace, as well as in the culture at large.

Holden, Mantung, SA

Holden, Mantung, SA

This photograph  provides a scene as opposed to a narrative; a scene that is always from the past and that has to be read like a tableau or a panorama, with the gaze moving across the plane of view in different directions, back and forward. This kind of viewing incorporates the past into the present. It suggests that photography simultaneously conjures past, present, and future in a single image form.

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