Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-2000

The next stage in the archive project after The Bowden Archives  is a book with Adam Dutkiewicz entitled Adelaide Photography: from the 1970s –2000 to be published by Moon Arrow Press.  It is a  historical project that is a step to filling in the large  gaps in the history of Australian photography and Adelaide’s late 20th century visual culture.

Tree, South Rd, Adelaide

Adam and I have talked about starting work on the Adelaide photography  book after he has completed  A Visual History of  the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016 Volume 2 book.  At this stage the start would be  towards the end of 2017,  or the beginning of 2018. Continue reading


graffiti in Bowden

The graffiti in Bowden during the 1980s was  often quite blunt and direct with no ambiguity in the message:

grafitti, Bowden
graffiti, Bowden

I interpreted  it as the signs of the increasing emphasis  on law and order as a response to the local residents /industry politics,  and to the repression directed at  those who were  thrown on the industrial scrapheap with little hope of finding a job. Continue reading

towards another photographic history

In his essay ‘Australian Made’ in Each Wild Idea: Writing , Photography, History  (2000) Geoffrey Batchen  contests the view that  Australian photography after 1945  was a dependent shadow of trends in the United States. He says that  this assumption underpins the histories of Australian photography written by Gael Newton in  Shades of Light: Photography and Australia, 1839–1988,  Anne-Marie Willis’s Picturing Australia: A History of Photography and Helen Ennis in the  exhibition catalogue, Australian Photography: The 1980s.

If this dependency was especially the case  for the Australian art photographers of the 1970s, then according to these texts, the 1980s signalled the beginning of  a new era of photographic art practice. Batchen’s main point is that  art photography was only one small aspect of developments in Australian photography during the 1980s,  and that there is no particular reason to concentrate a historical account of Australian photography in this period exclusively on art production. He says:

There were in fact a number of important debates and incidents specific to Australia during that decade in which photography was a central concern, and yet inexplicably they received little or no coverage in any of the above [historical surveys of art photography] books. Another history of Australian photography in the 1980s remains to be written, one concerned with the medium’s social as well as its aesthetic impact. The aim of this other history would be quite specific: to make visible the local configurations of power and resistance within which photography in Australia operated, then as now.

Batchen  then asks:  What would be in such a history?

For the sake of argument, he offers some fragments, along the lines of those who  managed to stage  effective interventions within the very grain of an established circulation of photographic images. He mentions  photography by indigenous Australians and the wilderness photography of  Peter Elliston and  Peter Dombrovskis. Another fragment in the 1980s that Batchen  mentions was  the work of B.U.G.A. U.P or Billboard Using Graffitists Against Unhealthy Products:

Marlboro, Bowden
Marlboro, Bowden

Batchen says during the 1980s this  group  “regularly terrorized Sydney’s advertising billboards, particularly those devoted to the promotion of cigarettes and beer. Ubiquitous urban billboard images were transformed through a judicious and witty application of spray paint such that their naturalized messages of desire and pleasure were made strange, sometimes on a spectacularly grand scale.” Continue reading

An empty urbanscape

The empty urban streets of the inner suburb of Bowden bear witness to the slow and steady disappearance of the blue collar, inner suburb working class through the process of de-industralization. The streets are the sites of  this trauma and the photography is about absence, void,  lacunae.

This is not photography of an event in the sense of photographic reportage; the photographs  were not taken in the midst of the action, nor are they documenting  any specific historical moment.  These  particular photographs alludes to what is not there:

empty streets
urbanscape, Bowden

What is not there is the traumatic memory  from the closing down of the factories, the loss of jobs, the unemployment and the slow urban decay.  The blue collar working class  were facing a future of closure. Their old industrial way of life was slowly disappearing as they lived.  This closure was a traumatic event.     Continue reading


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

city strolling

Most of the images in the Adelaide section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia come from city strolling with a camera in the company of Fichte,  my cream coloured,  standard poodle.   City strolling is a translation of the French term flânerie, and it  is an aimless rambling and drifting in the labyrinth of the big  city of modernity  that involves a ludic engagement with the city.

Strolling has no goal,  and it involves   poeticizing what we come across in our aimless drifting.   We invest in our power of imagination  and  attribute meaning to the changing phenomena around us as in the shops in Rundle Mall.

Witchery, Rundle Mall
Witchery, Rundle Mall

My city  strolling  through the city  crowd was not just a  moving through the industrial  city, but rather a  concentration on the displays  exhibited in the  store fronts. These form a dreamscape–a mythic,  re-enchantmen of the banal city.   City strolling is not just a practice of walking and watching but also a way of theorizing and  photographing.  It is a cultural activity.  Continue reading

not the most exciting place to live

One way the boredom and dissatisfactions from living in Adelaide could be relieved was  through  gestures of rebellion and revolt. Another   was through  hanging out in the shopping precincts, arcades  and going shopping in Rundle Mall. Leisure time, freedom, and choice was increasingly expressed  through consumption. Everyday life was becoming a realm of bland consumption.

My experience of drifting (dérive with its flow of acts and encounters) through these spaces of consumption was that  the mall or arcade cuts us off from one another by encouraging the individual pursuit of stuff as well as  cutting us off from the world. The street in contrast is about connecting people with one another and that  is  what turns space into place.


There were very few spaces  in Adelaide the 1980s that  became  gathering places. Placemaking was not part of the urban designers at the Adelaide City Council.   So the arcade becomes  a consumer bubble, a way where  people waste time doing little but watching each other. Or being  lost in their own thoughts and emotions.  Frozen moments in everyday life.   Continue reading

The Bowden Archives and other Marginalia

The Bowden Archives and other Marginalia  is the current working title of the  book of  my archival photographs from the 1980s that I have recently started to work on.

What unfolds in the book is a collage of images and writings. The collage-like writings and accompanying images stand at the margins of being systematically and/or instinctively ordered. Academic convention demands the former but in this case the memories of the past are  vague, diffuse or unspecific, slippery, emotional, ephemeral, elusive or indistinct. The  remembered changes are like a kaleidoscope in that the memories don’t  really have a pattern at all.

The narrative in the book  is  reinvented, combined in weird assemblages in that  the  pieces of the past are being superimposed in some new sense.

The turning point
The turning point

The reason for this approach is that I don’t have a clear memory of my photographic  past,    cannot recall  my thinking about my photography of that period, ands have no awareness  of  how I was assessing the material on photography that I was reading.  So I have to reconstruct  or reassemble my experiences   from various materials. The result is that  different pieces of things that are gathered into a single context.

The past survives however much one tries to drive it down and away from one’s consciousness. It rears up provoked by something overheard or a scene, a place, an object, a tune, a scent even. It is inescapable.  Place and landscape are always centred on the person(al) and articulated differently in each case in a series of connections through remembered/forgotten place-times.

Continue reading

Bowden textures

During the 1980s when  I was working on the Bowden project  in Adelaide The Developed Image, the South Australian Photographic Workshop  and the South Australian Workshop (SAW) came into existence.  There were number of  art photographers gathered around each. The Developed Image was the first photographic gallery in Adelaide, the South Australian Photographic Workshop was a collective of artists practicing in the field of  photography  who were associated with The Developed Image gallery;  whilst  the South Australian Workshop (SAW)   was a collectively run artist studio space.

This early history of art photography in Adelaide  has been ignored in the national timelines of photography in Australia,  even  though this was the period when the graduates of the  South Australian  School  of Art  were developing their pr0jects,  forming groups, working on projects  and having exhibitions. I  was on the periphery of these groups,  working in isolation and only  going to the various exhibitions at The Developed Image.    I wasn’t really aware of the overall photographic work that was being done in Adelaide during this period, nor did I have any sense of  the grant funded projects that these art photographers were then working on.  I had no connection to the independent publishers in Adelaide,  the little art magazines such as Words and Visions,   or any sense of a regional style in South Australian  still photography–if there was one.

Even though photography had developed an active presence in the art institutions my sense of this period  in Adelaide there was an absence of any major photographic publications,  art orientated photographers were working in relative isolation and their work was largely invisible to one another, there was a lack of critical writing on South Australian photography,  and there was little to no information  about  photography in Adelaide prior to the 198os. There was little sense of establishing a tradition of photography.

Bowden textures
Bowden textures

Adelaide was much quieter and more low key than Melbourne in the late 70s and early 80s.  There was no institutions such as  as Joyce Evans’ Church Street Gallery–an ambitious full-scale commercial gallery bookshop  that exhibited Australian work, vintage exhibitions  and overseas work–which  existed between 1975- 1982; or the Ewing and George  Paton Galleries at the Melbourne University Student Union.   I wasn’t sure to what extent the Art Gallery of South Australia supported the work of the local art photographers after Alison Carroll was appointed Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs in 1977,  or  to what extent the state gallery  encouraged the acquisition of contemporary Australian artists and photographers.  Continue reading

Bowden graffiti

The graffiti around the  streets of Bowden in the 1980s was done prior to the tagging and the boom in  street art in New York  in the 1970s-1980s and prior to many councils encouraging street art in the city by designating walls or areas exclusively for use by graffiti artists.

The Bowden  graffiti was text based,  not visually conceptual as in the work of Keith Haring who  painted wall murals  in Collingwood, Melbourne in the mid-1980s.

No Worries
No Worries

There was no street art scene nor any sense of artists challenging art by situating it in non-art contexts. It was more an expression  of the creative  impulse to put the writing on the wall  that set itself apart from the visual clutter of advertising; a form of expression  that has its roots in Arthur Stace chalking out his one-word message “Eternity” half a million times in Sydney between 1932 and 1967.

Continue reading