Past futures: the beach

Past Futures is the working title for the third section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia. This section maps the space outside of Adelaide’s CBD and Bowden-Brompton. It represents an escape from the confines of  the city, sometimes in  the form of  day trips to the Adelaide Hills and Mt Lofty Ranges; trips to Melbourne and along the River Murray.

Escaping the confines of Bowden  during the summer heat was necessary and I would often go to Adelaide’s coastal beaches in the late afternoon. I would usually park the Kombi at  Largs Bay in the late afternoon and walk along the flat open stretch of sand to North Haven and back with Fichte, my standard poodle.

couple, Larg's Bay
couple, Largs Bay

This was a time when people sunbathed  on the beach and they didn’t really worry about effective sunscreen to prevent melanomas and skin cancer, even though the Slip, Slop, Slap!  health campaign was launched in 1981 by the Cancer Council as part of its SunSmart campaign.    The beach was a hedonistic holiday zone–a shared space of relaxation–with minimal shade from the burning sun.
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Bowden’s residential architecture

The residential architecture in industrial Bowden prior to its recent gentrification consisted of cheaply built working class cottages. They were dark inside, full of salt damp during the winter and hothouses in the summer.  This housing  had no insulation and there were few street trees tom provide some shade from the summer heat.  Bowden baked  during Adelaide’s  long hot summer.

working class cottage, Bowden
working class cottage, Bowden

In the 1980s these cottages were situated amongst plastics factory, three foundries,  building companies that specialised in building panels, warehouses, and delis. The suburb was dumpy and dingy,  the  foundries were a very dirty, polluting  industry, and  a lot of the land in Brompton was contaminated.   Continue reading


I only made a few portraits of people in the city of Adelaide during the 1980s.

One place was Valentino’s Restaurant in Gays Arcade, off Adelaide Arcade, near Twin Street.  My sister used to work there as a waitress whilst she was studying at Flinders University of South Australia  for a social workers degree.  I got to know the people working there,  as I  used to drop in for a quick meal when I’d been strolling around the CBD,  reading the street, and photographing in the city as if I were a tourist visiting Adelaide.

pizza maker, Valentinos
Reno, Valentino’s Restaurant

The meals were cheap then. $5.50 with a glass of wine.  In many ways it was a taken for granted space of a given historical period infused with meanings, experiences and memories; part of the patchwork quilt of traces of human existence that makes a city more than its buildings, transportation networks, rivers, and parks.      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

destroying the old, creating the new

The late 198os and early 1990s in Adelaide was a period after the 1980s property boom and during ‘the recession we had to have’.  I was living alone and working long hours  tutoring and cleaning (early morning and evening) in order  to keep  up the mortgage payments on the cottage.  The high interest rates meant that the good times were no longer rolling.   Keeping the cottage during the recession meant the end of my photography as  I had neither the time nor the money for it.

older man, Adelaide
older man, Adelaide

One aftermath of  the  1990s recession in South Australia was that many workers who had become unemployed during the recession were unable to be re-employed in their old, or in a similar,  job.   Over time many of these people simply gave up any hope of ever finding appropriate employment and slowly slipped into the  ranks of the hidden unemployed.  Continue reading

the “rust belt” state

The deregulatory  financial reforms of the Hawke/Keating  government from 1983 that saw the globalisation of the Australian economy helped to advance the speculative boom that occurred in the late 1980s. In Adelaide, insurance companies, superannuation funds and government financial institutions  joined large development companies and individual developers in property investment even before the major share market downturn of 1987, and more intensely thereafter.

The South Australian state government promoted the ASER project in North Terrace, the State Bank Centre in Currie St and the REMM-Myer project at Rundle Mall to encourage economic growth, create employment, increase revenue and modernise the CBD.

ASER, Nth Terrace
ASER, Nth Terrace

The boom was finance driven,  and it ended by 1991 primarily because of an oversupply of office space that lowered property values and secondarily because of rising interest rates and foreclosures as speculators defaulted. The financial excesses of the 1980s reached such a scale that the 1990 recession was inevitable. monetary policy responded to the overheating of the economy and the asset price boom of 1988 and 1989. In the event, the cash rate reached 18 per cent in the second half of 1989, the mortgage rate 17 per cent, and many loans to businesses well in excess of 20 per cent.

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a point of departure

As the  social relationships between people were becoming increasingly mediated by images,  and the symbols of consumption such as cars, neon signs, and shops became ever more seductive and signs of social status and personal identity, the process of  deindustrialisation continued to spread  slowly throughout  the manufacturing highways of  South Australia.  For the blue collar, white  working class  in Adelaide who were losing their jobs a result,   consumer society’s promised land of a better  middle class life for all seemed to move further away into the distance.

The  process  of deindustrialization meant that the realities of the world experienced by ordinary people stood in  marked contrast to the glossy spectacle  image-text  world of commodified experience. If there was a space for a weighing of the actual against the promised, there was  yet no popular reaction to the neo-liberal globalisation.

Rundle Mall
Rundle Mall

There was, however,  a cultural tradition of a  poetic and sensual desire to be intensely  living in the world, feeling its most intimate reality, through a turning away from the cultural, moral, intellectual, and political values of the prevailing social order  to  the world of play,  creativity within the functional drudgery of contemporary urban life.

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