wandering in Port Adelaide

I have scanned a few more archival images from those I made when I wandered around the urban part of the Port Adelaide precinct with a Leica in the late afternoon during winter. The Port had a gritty, grungy, industrial, working class character in the 1980s.

billboard, Port Adelaide

What drastically reduced the need for waterside labour at Port Adelaide’s inner harbour was the development of deep berths at Outer Harbour to accommodate larger ships, coupled with the introduction of bulk handling facilities and containerisation in the 1970s. The 1970s and 80s was also a period of general decline in raw material processing and manufacturing in the Port, with many mills, foundries and factories closing or relocating.

The result was that historic buildings were closed and even vandalized whilst shops in the main streets of the suburb were empty and boarded up. It was becoming a place of social and economic obsolescence, a derelict dockland – stagnant and lifeless.

Melbourne: street + documentary

Some of my black and white Melbourne street photos from the late 1970s/early 1980s have appeared on a couple of previous blog posts–eg., here and here. The picture below is from the same period.

The conventional account holds that street photography positions itself as art whereas documentary photography is more concerned with injustice or narrative. The former tends to be spontaneous and it seeks to capture a moment that would have, without the photographer’s intervention, gone unnoticed. Documentary photography is more considered and ethical in its approach. Street photography is associated with the imagination (the free play of the faculties) and the poetic, whereas documentary photography is associated with truth, matter of fact and empirical knowledge.

alleyway, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Street photography is closely associated with a snapshot aesthetic or more broadly a snapshot culture that breaks down the borders between the private and public realms. A minimal description is a fragmentary photo in space and time with a loose and informal composition that is coupled to the semantic area of a photographer shooting or hunting with a portable, handheld 35mm camera searching for meaningful, memorable moments.

Conventional art history holds that the style of street photography became recognized as a genre in its own right during the early 1930s with figures such as Henri Cartier-BressonBrassaï and André Kertész,  While there are precedents, and areas of overlap with documentary and architectural photography, street photography is associated with the photographer’s skill in capturing something of the mystery and aura of everyday city living. Some hold that the human figure becomes the street photograph’s defining feature. Robert Frank is seen as the central figure in this tradition.

Melbourne: street photos

In the previous post I mentioned that after moving to Adelaide from Melbourne, I would frequently return to Melbourne in the early 1980’s to photograph. I used to catch the overnight Overland train, or hitch hike between Adelaide and Melbourne. I travelled lightly, with just a Leica M4 rangefinder and some 35mm black and white film.

stiletto, Melbourne

These snapshots were mostly photos of various images in shop windows, which I was also doing in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall. Melbourne’s more interesting shop windows had graphic window designs expressing desire, fantasy and consumer dreaming.

The spectacular image culture is the very heart of consumer capitalismThe spectacular image culture is much more than something at which we passively gaze as it increasingly defines our perception of life itself, and the way we relate to others.