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