New Zealand, publishing, urban, Wellington

Reconnections: Walking Wellington

March 7, 2019

I have spent the last couple of months working on the Reconnections: Walking Wellington  project. This  is  based on my walking  Wellington around the time of Photobooks/NZ  in 2018  and on my previous visits.  These visits were designed  for me to walk Wellington.

It has  initially been constructed in the form of  a Tumblr blog.  The blog is here and the project starts from the bottom of p. 4.   The impetus for the project was    Photoforum NZ’s recent open call for submissions  for their online gallery  (images of the project only),  and then their call for  submissions the form of a pdf  for their publications programme (text plus images).

The blog was the easiest way for me to construct the project fragment by fragment,  and it is also provides an  accessible way for people to see the project in its embryonic form. The picture below  is an outtake from the project:

Massey Uni, Wellington

There is another outtake here.  Another  outake  is here.

If these submissions are not successful– I am assuming  that they wont be,  given both the nature of publishing in Australia and New Zealand and the strength and creativity of photography in New Zealand —then I  have the basic draft  for a new photobook. This time around I will submit the pdf to various book publishers. If I am not successful,  then, and only then,    will  I consider publishing  it on my own.  I do need to explore the submissions route and experience the normal  series of rejections.   Continue Reading…

digital, digital image, film

the digital image

January 27, 2019

A common argument in photographic theory is that the triumph of the digital image as the contemporary form of photography forces a reevaluation of the traditional assumption of correspondence between the image and some form of reality of which it is said to be an imprint.   The argument is that digital  images that begin their life as binary data and are  driven  by algorithms  cannot be comprehended through the conventional  trinity of representation, the index and the punctum.  A major shift has taken place with the emergence of the networked image.

As a photographer I understand  the digital image to be an evolution from analogue photography: to all intents and purposes a digital image made with a digital camera  is  little different to the one that is made with an analogue camera.  I situate myself in the world in the act of photographing,  and  then I use these  working tools to construct visual representations. The  Sony a7R111 digital camera is an automated,   computational and pre-programmed tool compared to  the entirely manual Leica M 4-P analogue camera that was made in the 1970s.   The trajectory  in digital photography is towards the expensive professional high end. This  means  increased  automation,   a pre-programmed apparatus,  and more and more AI being built into the post processing software in order to  counter the competition from the increasingly sophisticated cameras in  smart phones.

Here is a digital image made with a digital Sony-a7 R111 camera:

quartz, am

Here is the analogue photograph   made with  the all manual  Leica M 4-P analogue camera.  The negative  has been scanned into a digital file and then processed in Lightroom.

The differences between the two technologies within this  logic of representation are minimal  when they are viewed on a computer screen after being edited with Lightroom software.  The object —ie., the quartz  and creek in the two images –is known to us as a representation of the object.  Photography is a process that mediates the world with the agency of light to produce legible images.  

From my perspective as a working photographer the main difference between the two technologies is evolutionary. The digital technology is more convenient to use  and  it offers greater flexibility  for  hand held photograph in low light situations–eg., at dawn.   As a photographer I continue to work within the trinity of representation, the index and the punctum, with both digital and analogue cameras.   However,   I do  realise that the image on the computer screen  made with a digital camera resembles the look of a traditional photograph  because the computational processes are currently designed by the manufacturers  to make these data packages look familiar to those working within the photograhic tradition.

Continue Reading…

abstraction, coastal, digital, exhibitions, rocks

photography and abstraction

December 21, 2018

I notice that  the Tate Modern has an exhibition entitled Shape of Light: 100 years of Photography and Abstract Art,   one whose art historical approach refers back to the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark photography exhibition, The Sense of Abstraction in 1960.   The Tate blurb states that this is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between the photography and abstract art, spanning the century from the 1910s to the present day, and it includes some of the contemporary work by Antony Cairns, Maya Rochat and  Daisuke Yokota.

The Tate exhibition    basically re-inserts the history of photography into the well-writ narrative of art history to  makes a necessary point: – that photography merits serious consideration within the category of abstract art, and that the camera’s attraction to the shape of light rather than the shape of solid form as we perceive it, changed the way images of all kinds were composed. It also suggests that there has been  a fruitful dialogue between abstract painting (Miro, Riley, Braque, Mondrian, Pollock, Kandinsky)  and photography over the  last  hundred years.

This raises a question: has this kind of dialogue come to an end in the 21st century rather than being  continued?

King’s Head abstraction

The curators place the 20th century’s avant-garde’s  photographic experimentations (ie., abstraction) in the context of wider developments in art, with examples of cubism, abstract expressionism, Bauhaus and op art providing benchmarks.  The  curatorial argument  is that abstract photography  has evolved in step with painting and that there is  a shared history.  The relationship between painting and photography has  been a symbiotic one, a close mutualist relationship that has benefited both art forms.

An alternative interpretation is that  abstract photography  followed behind abstract painting,  in that abstract  painters influenced the way photographic artists understood image and  that the photos are the  monochrome equivalents of paintings.  This  interpretation  reinforces the culturally conservative position of the supremacy of painting. This conservative  interpretation  overlooks the way that both Rodchenko and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy challenged the supremacy of painting by refusing to see any medium as more important than another and by working in fields as diverse as film, graphic and theatre design, sculpture, painting and light shows. The common tendency in the Australian art institution is to adopt the conservative interpretation. Continue Reading…

Adelaide, archives, black + white, film, topographics

Adelaide Photography 1970-2000: Submissions called

November 17, 2018

I have finally picked up working on the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book  with Adam  Dutkiewicz that is to  be published by Moon Arrow Press.  There has been more than a year’s break from the early stages of planning  due to  other book and exhibition commitments by Adam and myself. We have just called for submissions for  the portfolios in the book,  and we are now sitting back and waiting to see what comes in from the call out.  Though it is not really clear at this early stage what kind of  work will be submitted,  the book’s explicit regional  focus  will  fill one of the  gaps in  the art history of Australian photography that has traditionally been  written  around a cumulative teleology of styles and periods.

The design of the book is simple: each photographer will be given 6-8 pages to present their work from this period,  and they will have a text  to describe their work and their biography or profile.   As there are currently around  20 photographers who expressed an interest in submitting a portfolio and there is some text, the book looks to be  around  130 pages.  The launch of the book will be at an exhibition of some of the prints in Adelaide early in 2020.

The year 2000 is a useful cutoff point  for the book because this is when photography started to go global:  the explosion of websites, art fairs, festivals, biennales, travelling museum exhibitions, catalogues, conferences, artist residencies etc associated with the international  transmission of objects,  ideas and photographers operating across the boundaries of nation states. If this meant that the hold that European and North American artists had over the production of contemporary art has been broken, that the art world has become more event-driven with biennials and art fairs in far-flung locations, then it also means the biennales are institutional sites whose ways of seeing  contain an aesthetic regime of experience.

sand dunes, Largs Bay, Adelaide

My own portfolio is structured around  my  shift from street photography to topographics. This would exclude the landscape photographs,  and it foreshadows my turn to,  and latter embrace of,  a topographical approach to still photography. The topographical  turn, which  was made during  this period,  with both the Port Adelaide series and the spatial interpretations  of Adelaide, was largely shaped by using  large format cameras.  It was a foreshadowing in the sense of my not consciously relating this to the New Topographics tradition in the US, even though I was consciously photographing  a  human altered landscape. Continue Reading…

landscape, nature, water

The ‘Our-Waters’ project

November 10, 2018

I have recently become involved in a new project entitled Our-Waters, which is  about the River Murray and the photographic archives of the  Godson Collection  held by the State Library of South Australia.  Some background to the project is here on my  Our Waters  Our Country blog,  which, for now,   is loosely associated with the  Our Waters project.

As it is  still early days in the project,  it has  no  public profile  (ie., there is no website) to inform people what is happening.    However, a   recent update on  the state of play of the  Our Waters project is on this blog post. This indicates that this photography is not what Rebecca Solnit calls eco-porn: photography  that  celebrate the  ‘untouched beauty’ of nature associated with  the nature tourism  and calendars that view our  land and rivers as a place of wildness and wilderness.

 

Lake Alexandrina, 2011

It is an opportune time to start such a project given the recent report on the ecological state of the Coorong by the Goyder Institute.   The  ecological condition of the Coorong has been steadily degrading since European “settlement” due to upstream water extractions, and  the Millennium Drought was a major disturbance causing a rapid decline in condition.   Whilst the relatively recent increase in natural and managed inflows to the Coorong  through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan have improved the ecological condition of the North Lagoon, the ecological condition of the South Lagoon  has  not recovered,  or it has continued to decline.  As Mary E. White wrote in her Running Down – Water in a Changing Land (Kangaroo Press, 2000):

The continuing saga of the extraction of massive amounts of water from inland rivers to satisfy the escalating demands of the irrigation industry is Australia’s most serious, and ultimately potentially most disastrous water-related issue. It is a battle between two essentially irreconcilable attitudes to land use.

To  speak plainly, the Murray-Darling Basin has been, and is being,  managed to  benefit the  irrigators.  Continue Reading…