nature, rocks, Victoria

Mt Arapiles: 2 photos

January 16, 2020

In this post I mentioned my weekend trip to Mt Arapiles in Victoria with the Melbourne-based Friends of Photography Group (FoPG) in September 2019. Since then I have developed and scanned the 5×4 colour negatives and post-processed them in Lightroom. I have yet to develop and scan the black and white photos that I made on the trip. The Adelaide Art Photographers 1970-2000 book and the Mallee Routes exhibition have taken up all my time.

One of the areas that I did explore that weekend was Mitre Rock, which is an isolated outcrop to the north of Mt Arapiles that looks out onto farmland:

Mitre Rock, Mt Arapiles, Victoria

Though I walked around Mitre Rock and went back several times I only made a couple of photos of this western wall of the outcrop. I didn’t make many 5×4 photos that weekend. I was finding my feet, as it were, as I didn’t know the area at all and I was more focused on continuing on to Murtoa in the Wimmera to make 5×4 photos for the Mallee Routes exhibition in December.

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abstraction, critical writing, digital image, South Australia

the digital image: a note

December 17, 2019

In this post on the Mallee Routes blog I mentioned the lack of critical writing about local exhibitions in Adelaide and the crisis of independent writing about art in general. An associated problem emerges from the art gallery existing in a digital economy due to the gallery usually having a minimal online presence; a minimal presence that is especially noticeable with respect to their exhibitions. The current Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery is a case in point.

The standard convention is that there is just the odd image from an exhibition online which is primarily used to market the exhibition to the public. This means that an online viewer, in say another state, is unable to gain a sense of, or assess, the exhibition. Secondly, there is little to no engagement, dialogue or conversation with the gallery’s online audience about their exhibitions. This, in turn, means that an exhibition has a limited reach and presence. It’s here today, seen by few, and forgotten tomorrow, unless it is reviewed or there is an exhibition catalogue. The latter only happens to the mega exhibitions of superstars or global artists working in the biennial culture. 

leaves + bark, Encounter Bay

The art gallery’s low digital presence provides an entry point into a problematic about how the nature of photography is changing and the significance of these changes. We can begin to explore this through looking at the functioning of the art gallery in a digital economy. Firstly, the gallery continues its role of curating and collecting photography; a role that is designed to sort the image s to incorporate into the canon through the separation of photography as art and not-art. However, in continuing to champion photography as an art form, the curators downplay photography’s role as a reproductive technology in order to emphasise the creative legitimacy of the photographer who pressed the shutter.

Secondly, art galleries continue to rely on foot traffic to view the staging of a contemporary photograph exhibition in the white cube, grounded in aesthetic modernism. It does appear that the curators in the art galleries currently see digital technologies as either a new tool for artists to express themselves, or as a channel for communications and marketing through which new audiences can be targeted and captured. This approach to digital technology excludes is photography’s diffusion into general computing in a digital economy.  

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film, landscape, photography, roadtrip

Australian Roadtrips

November 10, 2019

I am currently reading Rebecca Dagnall’s practice based research PhD entitled, Landscape photography and the imaginary of an Australian Gothic. It was done in 2017 at RMIT, and consists of  three photographic projects: In Tenebris, The road trip, and Absence and presence: states of being in the Australian landscape. This blog post refers to Dagnell’s research around Australian road trips.

Road trips is an interest of mine. I have been making them and photographing over a number of years. Previous posts on this topic are here and here. My work for the Mallee Routes project is structured around road trips into the Mallee country.

Dukes Highway, South Australia, 2019

Dagnall starts the research part with David Campany’s recent The open road — photography and the American road trip; a book that provides a history of photography on the road through featuring the work of twenty photographers to document how artists have pictured America since the decisive work of Robert Frank in the 1950s. She then turns her attention to road trips and photography in Australia.

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Adelaide, archives, black + white, critical writing, photography, publishing

Adelaide Art Photographers 1970-2000

October 23, 2019

Whilst I was working on the Mallee Routes photobook for the December exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery I was also working with Adam Dutkiewicz to complete the Adelaide Art Photographers book –forementioned in blog posts here and here–for Moon Arrow Press. The book is nearly finished. Adam and I visited the printers —Openbook Howden— in Adelaide yesterday to sort out some technical details, obtain a quote, and have a sample print of the cover made to check the blacks and the appearance of the font.

There is still some fine tuning to be done, but we expect the pdf to be sent to the printers towards mid-November, with the book printed by Xmas. It will be launched in early March 2020 at an exhibition of photos in the book at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts in Adelaide. Copies can be purchased earlier through Moon Arrow Press.

This is the revised front cover of Adelaide Art Photographers with its referencing the 35mm Kodak film strips of the 20th century without its flap:

front cover

The book is a companion volume to the previously published Abstract Photography (2017) by Moon Arrow Press in 2017. The Adelaide Art Photographers book is around 180 pages. There are 20 photographers who have 6 pages for their portfolios and 1 page for their profiles. There is also an essay on aesthetics, which is understood in terms of a critical philosophy of art in the cultural context of the anti-aesthetic. The latter understood aesthetics to mean judgements of taste about the formal beauty of art; with the modernist autonomy of art being understood as a (negative) freedom of art from social determination in a capitalist society.

The anti-aesthetic movement in this period was reacting against Greenberg’s modernist reinterpretation of aesthetic autonomy into the task of medium self-definition through purification. This was via the transposition of the concept of aesthetic autonomy into a linguistic register in literary modernism–with T. S. Elliot being the main influence on Greenberg here. This modernism rejects the past, established art forms and their typical ways of being practiced in favour of some new manner of art making; it affirm this new manner as the uniquely appropriate way, of practicing a kind of art expressive of the modern world.

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critical writing, landscape, Victoria

Nature photography at Mt Arapiles

September 12, 2019

As mentioned in this post on the Mallee Routes blog I recently linked up with the Melbourne-based Friends of Photography Group (FoPG) for a weekend photo trip to Mt Arapiles in western Victoria. As mentioned in this post on the Encounter Studio photoblog the FoPG are primarily large format photographers of the natural landscape. In Australia landscape photographers have traditionally understood landscape photography in terms of the tradition of unpeopled or wilderness photography, no doubt due to the historical significance of the Tasmanian wilderness photographers.

It appears that the contemporary impetus and centre of the landscape genre of photography has shifted from Tasmania to Melbourne, Victoria. This is largely due to David Tatnall’s influence on nature conservation in Victoria through his landscape photography and   Ellie Young at Gold Street Studios in Trentham East, Victoria hosting the annual get together of large format photographers  and offering the alternative process workshops.

Castle Craig, Mt Arapiles, Victoria

Have the conceptual underpinnings of wilderness photography in Australia changed with this shift? In the Tasmanian version (eg., Olegas Truchanas, Peter Dombrovskis and others) of this tradition of wilderness photography was associated with Romanticism, nature as redeeming force, uninhabited  places worthy of pilgrimage that are also difficult to access, the European aesthetic tradition of the picturesque and anti-development. Their ethos was that if people could see the beauty of Australia’s wild places then they may be moved to protect them: to save a valuable environment under threat.

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