I recently dug out some photos in the b+w archives from some photo trips that I made between the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges and the Murray Plains in the 1980s. I started remembering these old road trips in this part of the mid-north of South Australia –eg., Sedan, Cambrai and the Marne River— when I briefly revisited the area in 2019 and then when I explored it more throughly in 2020 whilst I was at the Lavender Trail Kapunda camp.
These photos appear to be related to, or an extension of, this roadtrip. They were possibly made around the same time or more than likely, just after that roadtrip to the Mt Lofty Ranges. I cannot quite remember. From what I can recall these are photos made on a day trip from Adelaide, as I don’t remember sleeping in the Kombi overnight on the roadtrips in the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges.
On the 1980s road trip I travelled along the Eudunda Rd, which runs parallel to the Mt Lofty Ranges between Truro and Eudunda through agricultural land. This area has a number of farm ruins which caught my eye. Ruins, including the old railway line to Cambrai and Sedan, are what initially stands out when travelling though this region for the first time.
The suburbs west of the city of Adelaide and the parklands, such as Hindmarsh and Bowden, were earmarked as industrial areas prior to 1945 because they were in the vicinity of the road and rail links between Adelaide’s CBD and Port Adelaide. The industrial origins in the 19th century lay in the small cottage industries supported by both residential and industrial expansion. More noxious industries moved into the area in the early 20th century and the wealthier residents began to move out.
Though it was still a residential area, with many post 1945 European migrants (Greek, Italian, Yugoslav) being attracted to the area because of the low cost of housing, industry expansion quickened after the 1940s.By the 1980s the official view of Bowden-Brompton was that these suburbs were old industrial areas and that industry expansion was premised on purchasing adjoining residential property.
These properties were seen as being on congested sites, to be outworn and obsolete, as having reached the end of their economic and useful life, and that their low property values encouraged the intrusion of factories and businesses. The substandard housing was only worthy of demolition. The depressing character of sub-standard dwellings combined with noise, odours, dirt, smoke pollution and heavy traffic meant that Bowden was defined as a Adelaide’s slum. Slum meant an incidence of disease and delinquency.
The concerns of the people who lived in the slum for better living conditions for themselves could be ignored.
Even though there was limited room for industrial expansion in Bowden, and industry was moving to Adelaide’s northern and north western suburbs, the old Hindmarsh Council, which had been captured by industry, had little interest in greening the suburb, the quality of the environment or urban renewal. The state government had no conception of urban infill with higher density housing. Continue reading →
This image was made whilst I was working on the 1980s Bowden series.
The image highlights the industrial nature of this inner suburb, before its urban renewal and gentrification in the Ist decade of the 21st century. Bowden has been greened up, and infilled with higher density housing, and is now Bowden Village.
The earthy and gritty character of the older industrial Bowden of the 20th century has gone.
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.
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.
This is another image from the Mantung photoshoot in the South Australian Mallee in the early 1990s. It was made with a Cambo 5×7 monorail and Kodak black and white Tri-X film. This is another archival image that didn’t make it into the opening exhibition of the Mallee Routes project at the Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide. There were no archival images amongst my 5 images in that exhibition.
The image was made after the postmodernism opposition to the US modernist formalism, most often identified with John Szarkowski and the art photography favored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, had emerged in Australia; a postmodern opposition that helped to establish photo discourse in Australia. Szarkowski had proposed in The Photographer’s Eye (196) that ” it should be possible to consider the history of the medium in terms of photographers’ progressive awareness of characteristics and problems that have seemed inherent in the medium.” In other words, Szarkowski claimed to be seeking the essence of photography, in his case by privileging the specific qualities of the photographic medium.