at the Chowilla floodplain

This picture of dead trees on the Chowilla floodplain  in South Australia was made during the decade long drought in the Murray-Darling Basin, which ran from around 2000 to 2010. It broke with the emergence of   the  La Niña weather conditions in 2010. The photo was made about 2003/4 with  my  old Linhof Technika 70.

Chowilla, Riverland

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

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Salt Creek, Coorong

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.

Melaleuca, Coorong

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

starting over again

This was one the first colour photographs that I made after my return to photography in the 1990s.  I had stopped making  photos  whilst I was doing my PhD in philosophy at Flinders University  of South Australia. I started the doctorate in the late 1980s and finished the PhD around 1998,  then   started to work as an academic on a casual basis.   During the 1990s Suzanne, Fichte and  I would sometimes  go down to Victor Harbor on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coast on the weekends to stay with Suzanne’s  mother (Majorie Heath) at her place in Solway Crescent.

This photos  is  representation of the granite coast  west of Petrel Cove and east of Dep’s Beach at Victor Harbor.   It was made with my Linhof Technika 70   using  a  6×7 film back.  This  modest and intermittent photographic restart would have been around the mid 199os before  Majorie Heath died in 1997.

sea + granite, Petrel Cove

I had put  all my large format cameras in a cupboard, stopped using black and white film for medium format, and only used b+w for 35m until I lost the Leica M4.    I was inching back to photography  using the  old Linhof, a camera, which  I am still using over 20 years latter. I was impressed by the coast, thought that it was an interesting  location, and a good spot to pick up the pieces and make a modest return to  photography.    Continue reading

The Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book begins

Today I  started work in a rather  low key way on the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book that  Adam Dutkiewicz and I will   work on  together after he finishes Volume 2 of A Visual History: the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016.  The  Adelaide Photography book is to be published by  Moon Arrow Press, and   hopefully, if all goes well with the contributions from the Adelaide art photographers in this period   it will be published in late 2018. The book builds  on the Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice book that Adam and I published  in 2016.

Low key here means that I contacted several  people to see if they were interested in their work  being a part of the project;  and secondly, I  have started to read some tough going texts on aesthetics  that I’d  borrowed from the Flinders University of South Australia’s Library to help me  write an  essay on the aesthetics  of art photography for the book. The  questions I am addressing in the essay are: ‘what are  the aesthetic underpinnings for an autonomous  art photography after  it  has been accepted and incorporated into the  art institution? Secondly, if art is a form of rationality as  is assumed, then how does art’s rationality differ from the rationality of the natural sciences and economic rationality?

Adelaide plains

As well as the aesthetics essay there will be an art historical essay about the photography of this period. The centre of the book  is the portfolios of (approximately) 12 photographers which each photographer has about 4-6 pages for their pictures  including  an artist statement about their work.

Robert McFarlane has agreed to contribute to the book,  and his work  makes  an  ideal  start  to the book’s  portfolio section. In an essay written for Robert McFarlane’s Received Moments: Photography  1961-2009 (circa 2009) travelling exhibition Gael Newton addressed one of the many gaps in her influential historical survey, Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988, which was published in 1988. She says that McFarlane was:

a significant member of the somewhat neglected generation of Australian photographers whose careers began in the late fifties and early sixties. They slip between pre-war modernists and pioneer photojournalists like David Moore, and the ‘baby boomer’ personal documentary photographers of the 1970s who claimed photography as their medium and dismissed photographers of the recent past. The young photographers of the seventies – mostly using modern 35mm reflex cameras – redefined documentary photography as a subjective form of witness. Their preference was to show their work in books and art exhibitions rather than in mass market picture magazines.

In a footnote Newton mentioned that this “neglected group includes classic landscape photographers: John Cato (Melbourne), Richard Woldendorp (Perth), Wesley Stacey (all over Australia) and architecture and topographical artists John Gollings (Melbourne and Asia), and Richard Stringer (Queensland). The group includes documentary photographers Jeff Carter (South Coast, New South Wales) and John Williams (Tasmania). ”

It is good to see the acknowledgment  of topographical photography. It’s recognition in the Australian  art institution is long overdue.   Continue reading

suburbia, northern Adelaide

In the previous post I mentioned that I would now concentrate on other images from the archives now that The Bowden Archives  has all the images it needs. I have recently been mulling over what to do with these non-Bowden images,  and I have decided that some will go into the Adelaide book whilst the others will go towards a new book project with Moon Arrow Press.

suburbia, northern Adelaide

This is the independent  press  run by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz and which published my Abstract Photography book in 2016.  Adam and I had a chat about this Adelaide photography book recently,   and we tentatively agreed  to start working on  it next year,  after  he finishes Volume 2 of the Visual History of the Royal South Australia Society of Arts book.    Continue reading

The Adelaide hills

Once I’d  purchased   a VW Kombi I was able to make little road trips  outside of the city, I started exploring  around the Adelaide Hills and the Mt Lofty Ranges. I was stunned to see how small the city of Adelaide actually was sitting on  the Adelaide plains. It really was an isolated,  provincial city when compared to Melbourne and Sydney. It was easy to see how it was becoming marginalised.

city + plains, Adelaide

city + plains, Adelaide

I was shocked by how barren or stripped the landscape was. The colonial settler society’s ethos of men’s mastery of nature  resulted the  trees being few and far between in many places.  It was a reminder of the significance of agriculture prior to the emergence of manufacturing after 1945. Most land clearing occurred from the turn of the 19th century to the mid-20th century.  The  post World War 2 land development boom has seen the clearance of hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation in the agricultural regions of the State. By the 1980s over 70 per cent of the land had been cleared. The land tax favoured the clearing of native vegetation  not its conservation.      Continue reading