camel trek, Flinders Ranges, landscape, ruins

degraded-landscape: Flinders Ranges

July 7, 2018

On my  first night camping on the camel trek in the northern Flinders Ranges I experienced   a culture shock due to  the degraded-landscape around me.  Our camp at  Bend Well (a water point) was  west of Arkaroola and just outside  the edge of the northern tip of the Gammon Ranges and I was stunned at just  how degraded the ecology of this  landscape of this part of the northern Flinders was. It wasn’t the dryness of the landscape that shocked me. This is a semi-arid landscape given the minimal rainfall (roughly around 150mm) that is highly variable and  the hot, dry desert climate with cool to cold winters, and the periods of drought.

We were camped on Umberatana Station south of the dingo or dog fence that runs roughly east-west across South Australia. To the south of the fence, dingoes (wild dogs) have been destroyed   It is north of the dog fence sheep that grazing is unviable due to dingo predation. The main grazing pressure south of the dog fence is from sheep, a few cattle and unknown number of rabbits and kangaroos.

trough, Bend Well, Umberatana Station

What really shocked me  was the condition of the land—the ecological devastation–that had been caused  by the long history  over stocking  by the pastoralists, drought   and the plagues of rabbits since the mid-nineteenth century with little signs of contemporary landcare.  I couldn’t help but notice the loss of vegetation and the subsequent destruction of the soil surface. This is certainly a human altered landscape that had been changed by the pastoral industry.

I appreciate that these pioneer settlers  underpinned the general prosperity of South Australia  in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries since the various attempts at mining in the Flinders Ranges usually  fizzled out quite quickly.   The pastoralists also  opened up the interior of the continent. Continue Reading…

architecture, landscape, Melbourne

walking in Sunshine, Melbourne

June 13, 2018

Prior to going on the camel trek to the northern Flinders  Ranges  I was in Melbourne for a photoshoot about  old industrial Melbourne  for an upcoming SALA exhibition at Atkins Photo Lab with Stuart Murdoch. We spent  a part  of Sunday  afternoon walking along Kororoit Creek in Sunshine  in Melbourne’s west.  It was a pleasant afternoon walking  for a couple of hours along  the creek from Stuart’s place,  even though I was suffering from a painful  back that I’d  damaged just prior to leaving Adelaide for Melbourne.

The creek  features in Stuart’s Sunshine project–which is about place, lived experience and memory.  Some of his photos made along the  Kororoit  Creek Trail  had been  included a recent exhibition he had in 2018.   It was interesting walking with a fellow photographer in their own territory.

Kororoit Creek, Sunshine

Though   Sunshine is generally regarded as one of the forgotten suburbs of Melbourne’s west, I find it to be a fascinating place, both photographically and sociologically.  It is a low-density residential suburb  that is close to Melboune’s  CBD by rail; the Vietnamese  migrants are  rapidly changing this suburb  from its old industrial and white  working class base; it still  has plenty of industrial sites;  it is earmarked for redevelopment;  and there are some well cared for public commons. It is a photographically rich suburb to walk around in. Stuart’s Sunshine project is a making sense of this place that is his home.   Continue Reading…

Adelaide, architecture, critical writing

on photographic criticism in Australia

May 24, 2018

One of the more noticeable characteristics of the contemporary photographic culture in  Australia is the dearth of independent critical-writing or public criticism  that endeavours to convince the wider public of the worth of art photography through the process of  explicating, encouraging, elevating, supporting, critiquing.  There is next to nothing icy way of photo criticism in Adelaide:—the Broadsheet Journal has closed down, whilst The Adelaide Review,   Artlink  and Tulpa basically overlook/ignore photographic exhibitions   The consequence of this lack of  cultural building blocks is  that art photographers working on long term projects live in a critical vacuum, despite the shift  online to a networked  digital world.

Many traditional photographers would not be concerned about this vacuum in photography’s critical discourse as they have no real love for art criticism,  but it is a depressing situation that we find ourselves in.   Criticism is a crucial part of making and enabling  a photographic culture,  and  photography has been at the centre of critical debates and themes throughout late twentieth and 21st century art photography’s and it  has  had a crucial   impact on contemporary art in this period.

Royal Adelaide Hospital

This lack of a critical impulse and discourse about contemporary  photography is reinforced by  the lack of value around the arts in mainstream media and among the public more generally. The entire journalism industry has been  going through a major phase of disruption,  and arts coverage has been  the first  to go in the mainstream media.  It has been decimated over the last decade, which makes the newspapers irrelevant.

The primary  reason  for this is that the arts are  no longer a priority for  the mainstream media that is still dependent on advertising and sales revenue.  The shift to  digital means that the emphasis   is now  all  about what rates online in terms of the most clicks from readers.  Since the reviews of exhibitions are not being read,  other than by  those immediately connected to them,  so  the media publishers stop publishing art reviews.   As his well known, the advertising model is broken and  people do not want to subscribe to  the mainstream media.  Arts coverage in the mainstream media is directly commensurate with the advertising dollars it brings in re  the page’s profitability.   This means that arts coverage is in its own silo – it survives off the strength of art-related advertisers only.   Continue Reading…

history, Melbourne, roadtrip, topographics, urban

Topographics and a changing Melbourne

April 20, 2018

As mentioned in  the posts here and here on my  low key  Rethinking  Documentary photography blog  I am involved in  a collaborative photographic project  with Stuart Murdoch on changing Melbourne. An exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab’s gallery in Adelaide  during South Australia’s 2018 SALA Festival is the first public showing of this  collaborative body of work.

Linfox, Footscray,  Melbourne

Melbourne, like New York in the 1930s,  is changing very fast and the currently existing parts of the historical,  industrial Melbourne will be gone tomorrow. These are  the familiar things a city  that are overlooked until they are gone. Bernice Abbott’s well known 1930s large format photo project, Changing New York,  is a historical reference point in spite of the truncated nature of the 1939 book.   Many of Abbott’s  photographs from this body of work are now in the public domain,  as they have been made available online by the New York Public Library.  These photos are a  reference point  for our photographing a changing Melbourne,   even   though  there are big differences between the two cities and the photographic projects.  Continue Reading…

architecture, digital, New Zealand, Wellington

Photoforum Members Show 2018

April 2, 2018

I am participating in the Photoforum Members Show at Studio 541, Mt Eden, Auckland,  New Zealand. I rejoined Photoforum when I was at Photobook-NZ in Wellington after several years absence.   I submitted 3 images (medium format,  colour negative film)  for inclusion in the Members Show, which were made when I was   walking Wellington on a recent visit. The exhibition was oversubscribed,  so  the  curators/organizers  reduced the three images to two. However, it was only due to the stirling work at very short notice  by the team at Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide that I was able to get the images printed, framed and couriered to Auckland.  We had a week to do it.

All  the images in the Photoforum exhibition are posted on  Studio 541’s website along with  the bio’s and artist statements.    These show a diverse range  of work that stands in opposition to, and digs beneath,  the NZ is beautiful or a paradise  school of photography.

 

 

Photo Forum Members’ Show 2018.

Photoforum  was co-founded in  1973 by John B Turner,  Tom Hutchins and Max Oettli to promote photography as an artistic and expressive medium, to encourage co-operation and collaboration amongst the photographic community, and  to provide mentoring  for photographers.  A secondary, but crucial  aim,   was  to encourage photographers to actively engage in the public risk-taking of critical writing and curatorial practice, outside of the universities and polytechnics.

Over its 40 years history Photoforum  has also helped to  nurture a critical environment, but there is still a lack of  critics and historians to better cover the field of photography in New Zealand. My memories of the early years when I was a member was that documentary photography has been  the dominant  language of PhotoForum photography.There is nothing like this  community-orientated non-profit organisation, which   has made valuable contributions to New Zealand art and art history,  amongst the art photographers in Australia.  We independent Australian art photographers are much poorer as a result of not having a similar DIY community of expressive photographers.       Continue Reading…