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?
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
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:
Franklin St, Adelaide
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.
I had a rudimentary studio setup whilst I was living and photographing in Bowden in the 1980s. There was a a table, a dark cloth as a background, available window light, a 5×7 Cambo monorail, the odd prop, and a solid Linhof tripod.
However, I didn’t do much with the setup. I made a few portraits and some still lives, such as this one of a banksia, which I’d purchased at the Adelaide Central Market and then a lowed to dry:
banksia still life
The results were okay, and I realised that I could do the studio stuff, even though the studio situation wasn’t ideal. The available window light was minimal, the exposures for the 5×7 Cambo monorail where very long (several hours), and the house shook if a truck went past on Gibson Street. So I’d have to start the photo shoot again. It was all too difficult really. Continue reading
When I was living in Adelaide I would occasionally travel to Victor Harbor for day trips in the Kombi. I didn’t know that much about the Fleurieu Peninsula. I had heard that lots of people who grew top in Adelaide used to have their summer holidays on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The temperatures on this coast were lower than in Adelaide during the summer.
An archival photo of a house in Tabernacle Road, Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor in South Australia:
Tabernacle Rd, Encounter Bay
These were only occasional cursory trips as I didn’t find the township attractive or inviting. It was a small, commercial centre for agriculture and day tourists. It became quiet ugly during the peak tourist season.
The suburbs west of the city of Adelaide and the parklands, such as Hindmarsh and Bowden, were earmarked as industrial areas prior to 1945 because they were in the vicinity of the road and rail links between Adelaide’s CBD and Port Adelaide. The industrial origins in the 19th century lay in the small cottage industries supported by both residential and industrial expansion. More noxious industries moved into the area in the early 20th century and the wealthier residents began to move out.
Though it was still a residential area, with many post 1945 European migrants (Greek, Italian, Yugoslav) being attracted to the area because of the low cost of housing, industry expansion quickened after the 1940s.By the 1980s the official view of Bowden-Brompton was that these suburbs were old industrial areas and that industry expansion was premised on purchasing adjoining residential property.
These properties were seen as being on congested sites, to be outworn and obsolete, as having reached the end of their economic and useful life, and that their low property values encouraged the intrusion of factories and businesses. The substandard housing was only worthy of demolition. The depressing character of sub-standard dwellings combined with noise, odours, dirt, smoke pollution and heavy traffic meant that Bowden was defined as a Adelaide’s slum. Slum meant an incidence of disease and delinquency.
The concerns of the people who lived in the slum for better living conditions for themselves could be ignored.
Gibson St, Bowden
Even though there was limited room for industrial expansion in Bowden, and industry was moving to Adelaide’s northern and north western suburbs, the old Hindmarsh Council, which had been captured by industry, had little interest in greening the suburb, the quality of the environment or urban renewal. The state government had no conception of urban infill with higher density housing. Continue reading
This image was made whilst I was working on the 1980s Bowden series.
The image highlights the industrial nature of this inner suburb, before its urban renewal and gentrification in the Ist decade of the 21st century. Bowden has been greened up, and infilled with higher density housing, and is now Bowden Village.
factory, Bowden, Adelaide
The earthy and gritty character of the older industrial Bowden of the 20th century has gone.
Another archival image from the incompleted Port Adelaide project.
The image of an edgeland is looking across an urbanscape that was routinely dismissed as swampland to the Adelaide hills from the Grand Trunkway. This runs to Garden Island and the Torrens Power Station. This edgeland at Gillman was earmarked for a high tech industrial expansion around Port Adelaide that never really happened.
Edgeland, Port Adelaide
The degraded urban environment at Gilman was the chosen site for the proposed Multi Function Polis (MFP)—a Japanese proposal for a futuristic high tech city—in the 1980s. Australia at the time had an inward looking and inefficient manufacturing sector, an over reliance on an uncertain commodity market and was seeking international investment to help modernise its economy.
could be perceived as an extension of Japanese domestic development initiatives to target high tech industries with a Technopolis program to establish a series of high tech cities into the international arena with a new urban centre of 30,000 to 50,000 expected to be created near an established Australian city where urban infrastructure was available. Continue reading