In a previous post on this archival blog I had mentioned my shift from street photography to topographics during the 1980s. This shift emerged whilst I was photographing around Osborne, Gillman and Outer Harbor along the Port River estuary on the Le Fevre Peninsula.
This is an example of my topographic approach to industrial type urbanscapes—a wasteland, if you like– that was made in the 1980s:
Another version of the topographical approach to this wasteland or ravaged landscape that was made in the same photo-session is here.
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.
A talk with a publisher about the material in the Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia becoming a book, it was suggested that the proposed book would work best as a book if it were cut down to The Bowden Archives. The non-Bowden material will go to the Adelaide book, which has been on the back burner. The focus on Bowden tightens the manuscript, which was starting to become unwieldy, and the simplification makes the focus of The Bowden Archives more centred around history and place. I have spent the last week going through the 35mm negatives of Bowden, and scanning the best of them.
An example of the pictures in the initial historical section of the Adelaide book would be these two pictures of the Port River estuary in this post. The first picture of the mangroves are a reminder that Port Adelaide in the early 19th century was once basically a mangrove swamp and marsh surrounding the Port River. Tides and drainage would continue to be major issues for residents until the first half of the 20th century.
The embankments along the river formed a basin within which the early residents worked and lived, but not without some fear. While the embankment kept the River at bay most of the time, the banks could be breached by a high tide. The basin shape meant that any water, even rain, pooled in the town with no drainage outlets.
The working class cottages are an interesting historical aspect of Port Adelaide was the working class cottages. They helped to both give the Port its working class character, and to open a space where one is able to see an architectural history that reached backed to the early 20th century, if not the second part of the 19th century. The latter period was when the facilities of the Port were used to export and import supplies for colonial South Australia’s main industries–wheat, wool and mining.
Due to the lack of re-development Port Adelaide was an historic precinct with an impressive range of commercial and institutional buildings. Many of these have survived, resulting in Port Adelaide having one of the best concentrations of colonial buildings in South Australia. Continue reading →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →