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.
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.
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.
As mentioned in an earlier post of this blog the first section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia consists of street photography or snapshots that were made made in Melbourne and Adelaide with 35mm cameras and black and white film. This section has been reframed as part of a snapshot culture or snapshot aesthetic and it leads into the second Bowden section.
In the 1970s, when the American cultural invasion was in full swing, I was living in Fitzroy, working on the Melbourne Trams as a conductor. and studying at Photographic Studies College. Whilst I was working at the Kew Depot I made a few photos of the people I worked with. This is one:
As is well known the early 1970s saw a revitalisation of art photography in Australia, mirroring similar developments in the US and Britain. This ‘photo boom’, as it is known, witnessed the establishment of a number of specialist galleries with curators dedicated to photography; the establishment of the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney; and the development of photography courses in Australian art schools.
This ‘photo boom’ was part of the broadening of art history in the sense of the shift from art history’s Eurocentric approach to Australian art in the departments of art history as well in the art galleries. Before the 1960s, which saw the first widely accessible book, Bernard Smith’s Australian Painting 1788-1960, there was scarcely any general awareness of Australian art.
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.
The suburbs west of the city of Adelaide and the parklands, such as Hindmarsh and Bowden, were earmarked as industrial areas prior to 1945 because they were in the vicinity of the road and rail links between Adelaide’s CBD and Port Adelaide. The industrial origins in the 19th century lay in the small cottage industries supported by both residential and industrial expansion. More noxious industries moved into the area in the early 20th century and the wealthier residents began to move out.
Though it was still a residential area, with many post 1945 European migrants (Greek, Italian, Yugoslav) being attracted to the area because of the low cost of housing, industry expansion quickened after the 1940s.By the 1980s the official view of Bowden-Brompton was that these suburbs were old industrial areas and that industry expansion was premised on purchasing adjoining residential property.
These properties were seen as being on congested sites, to be outworn and obsolete, as having reached the end of their economic and useful life, and that their low property values encouraged the intrusion of factories and businesses. The substandard housing was only worthy of demolition. The depressing character of sub-standard dwellings combined with noise, odours, dirt, smoke pollution and heavy traffic meant that Bowden was defined as a Adelaide’s slum. Slum meant an incidence of disease and delinquency.
The concerns of the people who lived in the slum for better living conditions for themselves could be ignored.
Even though there was limited room for industrial expansion in Bowden, and industry was moving to Adelaide’s northern and north western suburbs, the old Hindmarsh Council, which had been captured by industry, had little interest in greening the suburb, the quality of the environment or urban renewal. The state government had no conception of urban infill with higher density housing. Continue reading →
The graffiti in Bowden during the 1980s was often quite blunt and direct with no ambiguity in the message:
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 →
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:
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
As the social relationships between people were becoming increasingly mediated by images, and the symbols of consumption such as cars, neon signs, and shops became ever more seductive and signs of social status and personal identity, the process of deindustrialisation continued to spread slowly throughout the manufacturing highways of South Australia. For the blue collar, white working class in Adelaide who were losing their jobs a result, consumer society’s promised land of a better middle class life for all seemed to move further away into the distance.
The process of deindustrialization meant that the realities of the world experienced by ordinary people stood in marked contrast to the glossy spectacle image-text world of commodified experience. If there was a space for a weighing of the actual against the promised, there was yet no popular reaction to the neo-liberal globalisation.
There was, however, a cultural tradition of a poetic and sensual desire to be intensely living in the world, feeling its most intimate reality, through a turning away from the cultural, moral, intellectual, and political values of the prevailing social order to the world of play, creativity within the functional drudgery of contemporary urban life.
One of the most striking characteristics of Adelaide’s CBD in the 1980s was the empty streets outside of the weekday’s 9-5 working hours. During the weekend the streets were more or less empty, and apart from the tumbleweeds in Rundle Street the city was dead with respect to urban street life. The urban life of this provincial, colonial capital city was desolate and depressing. People worked in the CBD and lived and loved in the suburbs.
The CBD had been emptying out from the 1950s, when families with children moving to new housing in the suburbs. Post-war migrants lived in the inner city areas and young professionals joined the migrants in central Adelaide and North Adelaide in the 1960s and 1970s. The CBD was still all about business, commerce and profit, not inner city living, or the protection of the traditional built character of the city.
This emptiness on the streets was in marked contrast to the flux and flow of the image-texts in a corporate consumer culture or the rapidly changing built environment as a result of the Bannon Government’s strategy of using major building projects to kickstart economic growth in a crane-led recovery from economic recession. Continue reading →