I have been going through my 35mm archives looking through images from the 1980s to include in a possible artist book for the Mallee Routes project. This would be a book that is associated with the initial Mallee Routes exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab in 2017. I just left a pile of small prints on a table for people to look at. It wasn’t a very successful mode of presentation.
I came across this image of an agricultural landscape in the Mt Lofty Ranges amongst a number of other images of the Mallee and the Riverland.
From memory, this picture would have been made with a Leicaflex SLR whilst I was on a day trip around the Mt Lofty Ranges in the VW Kombi.
The picture was made with a Linhof Technika 70 in the same year as this image. From memory, it was taken a bit earlier the year. It was around 2004-5 when I was working as a staffer for a federal South Australian Senator. We had gone to see how little water there was on the floodplain during the decade long drought. Continue reading →
What the drought highlighted was the lack of environmental flows in the River Murray. Too much water had been taken by the upstream irrigators in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. So there had to be cutbacks to water extraction in order to ensure increased environmental flows for the river. That is when the politics over water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin erupted around the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (2012) that was based around water trading and water buybacks by the Commonwealth. Continue reading →
This picture of a melaleuca in the morning light was made on an early trip to the Coorong in South Australia in the late 1990s. We stayed at some cottages at a property called Gemini Downs, which was just north of Salt Creek. I remember that it was very cold at night and that the heating in the cabin was minimal.
This was an edgeland around Salt Creek and it was just outside the Coorong National Park. It used by fishermen to access the water, and from memory, there was a fishermans’ hut nearby. Continue reading →
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.
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 Jerremswere 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.
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 →
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.