Photography at Kew Depot (in the 1970s)

As mentioned in the previous post I was stationed at the Kew Depot in the mid-to late 1970s, when I was working on the Melbourne trams and studying photography at Photography Studies College (PSC) in South Melbourne (now Southbank). I was studying part time at PSC just after its name changed to PSC from the Gallery School of Photographic Art. That would have been around around 1978. Haynes started his school in the early 1970’s.

Working on the trams were quite a contrast to being an economist in New Zealand. The former was a working class world in industrial Melbourne and the mid-to late 1970s was a period when the LNP Coalition under Malcolm Fraser was in power. I remember my political shock at Fraser taking a confrontational approach to the management of industrial matters, implementing an inflation-first approach (contributing to unemployment), repressive labour laws, and in 1982 a national wage freeze. 

No 840, Kew Depot

Whilst at Kew Depot I made the odd b+w portrait of some of the people who worked on the trams, or who were also based at the depot. These were in a naive social documentary style, and they would have been made towards the end of the 1970s, as course at Photographic Studies College required the students to photograph in colour transparency using an Olympus SLR camera purchased through the college.I would take the film to be processed to Bond Colour (now Bond Imaging) in Richmond.

Melbourne tramway snapshots

The first snapshot section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia will start with some of the tramway photos. These will build around this one in the previous post, and they will be based on some more of the pictures made in the Kew Depot.

An example:

George, Kew Depot, Kew

The above picture is inside the operational office. This is where you waited until the tram you were working on stopped outside and walked to it to start your shift.

No 4607, Kew Depot

I was based at the Kew Depot when I worked on the tramways. It was all shift work. I worked the early morning (5am start) and the evening (5pm start) shift on alternate weeks rather the broken shifts at the commuter peak in the morning and evenings. I usually walked to work from Fitzroy in the morning.

This kind of shift made me quite tired. I did it so that I could attend the part time courses at the Photography Studies College and take photos during the day for the courses.

Bowden: the Kelly Dance

After talking to a prospective publisher, the title of the manuscript  has been changed from Bowden Archives and other Marginalia to The Bowden Archives.  This  cut  down means that the book will be about Bowden as  the non-Bowden images–eg., the coastal beaches, Port Adelaide, Adelaide hills  etc– have now been pruned from the draft manuscript. They have been shifted to the historical section of the proposed Adelaide book.

I have been going through and scanning the 35mm negatives in the archive.   The picture below  is from the Kelly Dance–an evening of jigs and reels —  that was put on by  The Bush Dance Theatre:

boy at Kelly Dance
boy at Kelly Dance

This evening was sometimes in the 1980s. Unfortunately,  I cannot recall where the musical evening  was held or when.   Continue reading

at Port Adelaide

One of the places that I used to visit and photograph was Port Adelaide and along the Port River estuary.   I was initially attracted to the architecture of the  industrial and commercial sites along and nearby the polluted Port River, as these signified the drivers of  modernity in South Australia. Both sides of the  Port Adelaide River  had been zoned   as  sites for  industrial expansion and the industry that was there used the river  as a drain.   In the 1980s large sections along the banks of the river were empty sites,  and they were, to all intents and purposes,  edge lands. These, however,  were not  empty urban landscapes evacuated of people.

silos + Holden, Port Adelaide
silos + Holden, Port Adelaide

Living in the suburbs, driving a Holden with free time at Port Adelaide for play is what  the historical experience of  being modern was in Adelaide. Those who were making  the cars, the washing machines and the TV sets could also buy them.

Photography, if you like,  was where art and the categories of  everyday life met. This stood in marked contrast to the avant-garde at the Experimental Art Foundation, which along with the major art institutions and the practitioners of a post modernist staged and fictive modes of photography  associated photography with a simplified and enfeebled realm of an outmoded pictorial style and a naive account of representation.

On their account realism, with its facile assumptions  of visual transparency and deceptive form of  natural representation  equated realism with positivism’s view that the pictures of the world are in some uncomplicated sense  reflections of the world.  Realism was deemed to be out of date and second rate—  it belonged to a dingy corner of a dusty Victorian cupboard—- rather than realism being viewed  as a process of critical recovery  and historical remembrance.  Continue reading

Glenelg’s piazza

As Adelaide was in the process of becoming a post-industrial city haunted by the decline of its manufacturing industry and growing working-class disaffection its  only  genuine gathering place–or piazza—  for people  was  the beach side suburb of Glenelg. It was a place where people  accepted their differences to enjoy their leisure with  picnics,  bathing  and walking in the sun.

Glenelg, Adelaide
Cruising Glenelg

The tram route from Victoria Square to Moseley Square in Glenelg was all that remained of Adelaide’s tramways network. This  had been pulled up to make way for the  motorcar. The tram  was basically  for tourists.  During the summer the  tram was packed with people going to and from  the beach for  a  day’s outing. I would often catch it  to Glenelg in the afternoon to hang out on the piazza with my cameras. Continue reading

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 portraits

These are a couple more  Bowden portraits  that  supplement  the ones currently  in  the  Bowden portfolio on my  website. I didn’t do many formal portraits.

As I mentioned in the Preface I worked part time at Conroys Smallgoods  in Bowden to buy the  camera equipment to photograph Bowden.  I recall making  several portraits in the factory after we  had finished  working on Saturday morning.

Joe, Conroys Smallgoods
Joe, Conroys Smallgoods

Joe was the production foreman. He lived  in the Salisbury/Elizabeth area of the northern suburbs of Adelaide. He worked  long hours in the factory. It was a tough hard job.

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Portraits

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

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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