Port Adelaide estuary

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.

mangroves, Port Adelaide

mangroves, Port Adelaide

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.

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Cottages, Port Adelaide

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.

cottage, Port Adelaide

cottage, Port Adelaide

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

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

edgeland

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

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.

 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

Port River estuary

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.

Port River estuary

Port River estuary

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