This picture from the 1980s archives represents a change in the way that I had been photographing. It signifies a shift from the street photography and landscapes I had been doing previously to a more topographics style of photography:
It was a slow shift, as I was pretty much working blind. At this stage I was more or less trying to find suitable subject matter to photograph with the 5×7 Cambo view camera. I was slowly finding my feet photographing Adelaide as a place, and I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of a topographic photography of altered landscapes in Adelaide. Continue reading →
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, whichwas 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 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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
The earthy and gritty character of the older industrial Bowden of the 20th century has gone.
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.
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.
MFP Australia 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 →
Like the two other images from the Mantung photoshoot in the South Australian Mallee in the early 1990s this image was also made with a Cambo 5×7 monorail and Kodak black and white Tri-X film.
This image was made about the time that photography, whether as historical object or professional practice, was becoming fully institutionalised; that is in the process of finding a secure niche in universities, art schools, art museums, and the marketplace, as well as in the culture at large.
This photograph provides a scene as opposed to a narrative; a scene that is always from the past and that has to be read like a tableau or a panorama, with the gaze moving across the plane of view in different directions, back and forward. This kind of viewing incorporates the past into the present. It suggests that photography simultaneously conjures past, present, and future in a single image form.
This photo is from the incompleted Port Adelaide project. The photo is of the Port River estuary looking across to Penrice Soda Products’soda ash production facility at Osborne, Adelaide. It is is a film based photo made with a view camera. Sadly, my attempt in the 1980s to photograph Port Adelaide as a project didn’t get very far .
Looking back from the present I can see that, with the emergence of postmodernism and then digital technologies, this kind of topographical photography was about to disappear from view: a topographical photography has been transformed into a mere ghost of its former self.
The economic background is that Penrice Soda Holding Ltd went into liquidation on July 31st 2014, having collapsed in April 2014, leaving people without employment, and funds not available for their entitlements, and debts of more than $150 million. Penrice had use of hectares of Renewal SA land for storing their waste material.
Some of that waste material lies south of Penrice’s plant, on the west side of the Port River (between the rail freight line and the Port River) and some in piles on the east side of the River. The prime responsibility for the cleanup is with the company, but it is in receivership and unlikely to be able to meet the bill. The contaminated Osborne site becomes the responsibility of the state government (ie., Renewal SA.), since as no-one is likely to buy a contaminated site that has no use. Continue reading →