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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 Bernice Abbott’s well known 1930s large format photo project, Changing New York,  is a historical reference point in spite of the truncated nature of the 1939 book.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…

New Zealand, photography, publishing, Wellington

Photobook-NZ

March 30, 2018

I made a quick  return  to Wellington just after my walking Wellington trip to take part in Photobook-NZ  book fair   that was organized by Photoforum in association with Photography stream  of the College of Creative Arts at  Massey University and Te Papa.   I didn’t participate in the masterclass for   creating and publishing photobooks, nor did I submit a photobook for the New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards.   I missed the talks by Bryan SchutmaatCarolle Bénitah and Athol McCredie at Te Papa  on the Saturday as I had to mind my little stall in the   book fair   at Te Papa. The books on my  stall included Edgelands, Abstract Photography and Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2018.  Surprisingly, the book of mine that  people were the most interested in was the Abstract Photography book.

I  attended the opening on Friday night at Te Papa, heard  the  Peter Turner Memorial Lecture given by Jem Southam   on the Saturday night,  spend the Sunday at Massey University listening to the talks and panel discussions, reconnected with Sally Jackman (an old friend who I hadn’t seen since my time in Melbourne in the 1970s) on  the Sunday night,  and photographed around Newton on Monday.  I  flew back to Adelaide on Tuesday. All in all it was a wonderful and fruitful weekend.

Whakatane, New Zealand

The highlight of the Sunday session  at Massey University for me was the  talk by Katrin Koenning, a German photographer now based in Melbourne. The talk centred around the ongoing  Indefinitely project, which is  about the space created by her  family’s migration. The notion underpinning this is  that this space is not a vacuum or a void, but rather the creator of new narratives. This grew out of an earlier project Near, which was about Koenning’s  migratory experience. What I found interesting in this body of work in her talk  was the emphasis on emotionality,  darkness, and strong contrasts between darkness and light  in her pictures. Continue Reading…

architecture, digital, New Zealand, Travel, Wellington

walking Wellington

March 18, 2018

In early March I spent a week walking  Wellington, New Zealand  as well as  photographing in the city,  whilst Suzanne walked the Grand Traverse,  Queenstown way with her Adelaide  walking friends. I had  studio apartment in the Aro Valley courtesy of Air bnb,  and I spent about 8 hours a day walking the city in a Situationist mode. I drifted through central Wellington with two camera bags on my shoulders: one containing a Rolleiflex (TLR) a  Leica M4-P rangefinder whilst  the other held  my newly acquired  Sony Alpha A7r111, which I was slowly learning how to use.

2 houses, Wellington

I loved Wellington. It’s a funky,  vibrant cultured city. I was so at home being there. Even though Wellington is  a much smaller city than Adelaide in population terms, it is so much more alive in an urban sense. Despite the revitalisation since 2013 of the central city and the liquor-licensing reforms  Adelaide remains a  doughnut city.  Wellington  was much more alive than it was when I worked there in the 1970s as an economist in the public service. Then it  was empty of life at the centre with little in the way of depth of character. The central city is a much better place these days.

Wellington  also has  a strong art photography culture  which, unlike Australia,  is connected to,  and a part of,  a literay culture.  There is also a  vibrant café culture with excellent coffee scattered amongst  the Wellington ‘walkability’.  The  funky changes in the urban culture happened  in the 1990s apparently, but I am not sure what the driving forces  for the city’s transformation were, given that Wellington is largely a public service town.   Was the emergence of a lively urban culture caused by  the acceleration of diverse migration flows? Continue Reading…

digital, Melbourne, topographics, urban

the urban documentary  project

January 26, 2018

I have been reading Ming Thein’s recent post  on The Rise and Decline of Popular Photography  and connecting it to my recent experiences  in continuing with  my  urban documentary style of photography in Melbourne. His  observations  on the current shifts in popular photography are interesting, and they  help to  put this  low profile project  of mine into a market and cultural context and, in doing so,  highlights  what is needed  to continue to work on projects such as this.

A  core point in Thein’s post is his insight that simple economics means that the business model of the professional photographer  isn’t what it used to be,  and that the incentive to invest in skill is lower. He says that we  are seeing a number of studios going out of business and pros switching to doing other (non-photographic) things. The contemporary visual saturation means that as  there are more images being made than ever, so  it’s difficult to make an individual image stand out or to  justify the time and effort (and cost) invested in its creation.

I am finding  this to  be the case with the 3 year+ Mallee Routes project. It requires a lot of time, effort  and money to make the images  for this project and then to exhibit them in a gallery.    Similarly with  the road trips project or  the low key urban documentary work  project in Melbourne:

Moonee Ponds Creek, West Melbourne

Take the latter as an example.  The  recent roadtrip to  Melbourne and  stay coincided with a spike in the summer  temperatures.   It was hot (40 degrees Centigrade),   very humid and the light was terrible when I was out scoping the remains of industrial Melbourne in the West Melbourne area.  So I was limited to scoping  for a future session,   even though I had the large format gear in the car.  This meant that the scoping on this trip was just location searching–much like someone whose job it  is to go out and scout or  look for good locations for a movie film shoot.  Having found the gritty, grimy  location in West Melbourne  I now need to make a return trip to Melbourne  in the autumn. This is time, effort and money with no exhibition  or book in sight.    Continue Reading…