The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia is constructed from my unruly 1980s photographic archives, and it primarily consists of photos that I made in Adelaide during the 1980s; a decade that saw the melting away of all that was once solid and stable and the emergence of flux and flow in Australia’s culture. These archives provide a space for exploring the liquidity of culture without become lost in its fast-moving currents, and the book is a form of memory work that adopts an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the everyday of the past through a process of weaving together the public and private.
I had left Melbourne for the historically conservative city of Adelaide because I wanted to establish a critical distance from the American fine art print tradition and formalist modernism that were then circulating through the various public and private photographic galleries in Melbourne. At that stage I wasn’t aware of postmodernism’s critique of the frozen assumptions of US style American modernist formalism and its deconstruction of of the legacy of modernist photography as a fine art.
I still held firmly to the Enlightenment understanding of progress. This assumes the possibility that the future will be fundamentally different from the past, because new ways of understanding the world create future possibilities that are conceived as new in a way that cannot be entirely derived from previous experience. In the 1970s Dunstan’s Labor government, was leading the way in Australia with social reform, debating Aboriginal rights, challenging the White Australia Policy and legislating to decriminalise homosexuality.
The progressive thinking and sense of fun were trademarks of the “Dunstan era’s” conception of the darkness and light of Australian modernity and photography appeared to be onside with the progressive thinking of the 1970s.
self-portrait with mannequin
I had a studio in Bowden and worked part time at Conroys Smallgoods factory in Bowden to finance the photography. These black and white pictures are fragments of the suburb of Bowden inAdelaide, Adelaide’s CBD, and, after I purchased a Kombi, the city’s beaches and the countryside.
The rationale for the book is an observation by Gael Newton in her Preface to Photo Files: an Australian Photography Reader in 1999 that:
Currently there is a dearth of books in print on the most obvious topics. Huge amounts of work needs to be done in standard publishing of historical and contemporary research of a sustained nature.
The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia is situated in that empty space–a silence of history in that the art photography or photo art in Adelaide has been consistently overlooked by the art historians. The current book, in building on an earlier one, Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice by Gary Sauer-Thompson and Adam Dutkiewicz, is a contribution to a critical history of photography in Australia. Continue reading