The idea of linking the spatial turn in the humanities to my 1980s photos emerged whilst I was exploring my photographic archive for the proposed Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-80 book to be published by Moon Arrow Press. Noticing a shift in my photography from street to topographics, I started to make connections in my archive blog to the spatial turn in the humanities in relation to the landscape and space that had emerged in the 1980s. This spatial turn refers to the landscape and space being understood in terms of them being socially constructed and continuously reshaped.
The factory in this photo, which was situated near the railway bridge has long gone. So have the mangroves, replaced by a housing development that was designed to revitalise Port Adelaide. This then is an urbanscape whose history is that of being continuously transformed by the power of capital since the 19th century. It is not a landscape the traditional English sense of a picture of natural inland scenery, or the Australian sense of a national landscape painting associated with Romanticism as in the Heidelberg School. Landscape in this traditional sense usually veils historically specific social relations behind the smooth and often aesthetic appearance of “nature. The tradition of the landscape in the visual arts acts to “naturalize” what is deeply cultural, social and economic.
mangroves, Port River estuary
The emphasis of the Port Adelaide photography, which is on place and the mapping of place, is a part of the tradition of chorography that seeks to understand and represent the unique character of individual places. In chorography, the skills of the artist (painter and writer) were more relevant than those of the astronomer and mathematician, which were critical in geography. Choreography is a part of the pictorial topographic mapping tradition. Continue Reading…
The picture below of silos at Wallaroo on the north-west of York Peninsula in South Australia was made whilst on my first photocamp with Gilbert Roe in 2016. I had realised that day trips into the Mallee would not work for the Mallee Routes project since I photograph in the early morning or late afternoon light. So for the road trips to work I needed to camp in a specific location and work from there for several days. I need to get to know the area, the subject matter and the lighting conditions.
Wallaroo was a test run to check out our old camping equipment that we hadn’t used since the 1990s. I needed to see what still worked, what needed to be replaced to make a photo camp successful, and to judge whether or not I was still up for camping. Much to my surprise, the camp at Wallaroo worked a treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
silo, Wallaroo, York Peninsula
My various experiences at the subsequent photo camps at Ouyen, Hopetoun, Loxton and Hopetoun have resulted in the acquisition of a new tent, a new stove and a portable fridge. The battery and the solar panels to keep the fridge running at the photo camp whilst I am out exploring the local region during the day are the next necessary items to acquire. Then camping on a phototrip is no longer a hardship.
The Bowden Archives is is now in publication. I took the image files to the publisher–Wakefield Press— on Monday, the 17th July. I still have the text, or rather the three texts, to finish. I am currently struggling to get them into some short of shape. The overall argument is still very implicit and fuzzy, and the arguments of each of the texts are still hazy. I have another month to get the texts to flow, and once that is done I will finally have a draft of the book .
A book is the next stage after publishing the images online in Flickr and then a WordPress blog. It is very much a DIY project at a time when there is a substantial attack on knowledge, inquiry and, cultural memory caused by the austerity regime imposed by conservatives. This has seen ongoing public funding cuts to science authorities, universities, research programs, museums, archives, galleries and the public broadcaster along with a general dismissal of photography as a naïve, indulgent or downright irresponsible way to spend one’s time and energy.
Bowden kids, Adelaide
At this stage the preface is entitled ‘Living in Bowden‘, the second essay is entitled ‘Alternate Photographic Histories’ and the third text is entitled ‘Photography, Memory, Place’. The idea behind the book is to give a grounding to this style of regional photography; one that breaks with the positivist conception of documentary photography in the art institution by making the shift to hermeneutics and interpretation. This means that the photos are made rather than taken. It is a small and modest step to helping create a strong, critical visual culture to counter the latent anti-intellectualism directed at those people who want to talk/write about the ideas on which photography rests, as well as making images. Continue Reading…
I will be helping Paul Atkins to launch Judith Crispin’s recent book, The Lumen Seed, at Atkins Photo Lab gallery on Friday, the 17th March at 6pm. The launch will consist of an exhibition of some of Judith’s prints from the book, some background images made whilst we were at Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert in 2016, and a conversation between Judith and myself about the book. The conversation will link photography in the form of a book to contemporary issues in the Humanities.Some of my snaps from the 2016 trip to Lajamanu will be amongst the background images.
The Lumen Seed raises issues for me about taking photography within remote Indigenous communities. I only took a few photos whilst at Lajamanu on this trip, as I felt like a cultural tourist, and I was uncomfortable in that role. I also wanted to avoid viewing Warlpirri people at Lajamanu through the eyes of both colonial anthropology and the eyes of 21st century ecology.
Classical Anthropology used photography as visual evidence for scientific (anthropological and ethnographic) research, and it historically worked with a colonial gaze that had its roots in the evolutionary conception of primitivism (lowly race compared to western culture as the pinnacle of civilisation ) in the Darwinism of the colonial past. This colonial gaze viewed indigenous people as objects, whilst modern ecology, faced with the massive loss of life-support systems, reverses the evolutionary model and constructs Aboriginal primitivism by seeing indigenous people as close to Nature in contrast to the present white Australian (corrupted) civilisation that is hostile to nature. Indigenous people are constructed as iving peacefully in tune with the nature and preserving their ancient, “natural” wisdom.
The photographs I had in the back of my mind were those in Spencer and Gillen’s early work in central Australia –ie., their photographs of ritual performances (ceremonies) of the Arrernte people of the McDonnell Ranges. These were done the late 19th century and they formed the basis for their Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) book.
Aboriginal people, in this text, were seen as dehumanized “survivals” from an early stage of social development. The inference was that Aboriginal traditions will not adapt and survive in changed forms, but rather will be misunderstood, trampled on and destined to disappear. Since survival was believed impossible, it was important to document the ‘dying race’ of the ‘childhood of man’. A close study of Aborigines, whose demise was only a matter of time, could provide an insight into the very origins of humankind.
I have been bunkered down in the digital studio in front of the computer scanning the 1980s archival medium format negatives for The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia book. With most of the scanning for the first two sections now done, I have started to scanning negatives for the third section. This one is based around my escaping from the confines of Bowden after I’d purchased a VW Kombi.
Some of these are photos of Adelaide’s suburban beaches (Glenelg, Larg’s Bay Semaphore and North Haven) during the heat of the summer, others are from day trips through the Adelaide Hills and Mt Lofty Ranges; some are from trips to Melbourne and there is one major road trip along the River Murray to the eastern seaboard. I wasn’t really aware of many of these photos that I’d taken. The negatives were developed, contact sheets made, filed away in a filing cabinet, then forgotten until now.
Mt Lofty Ranges
Though some of these photographs are concerned with urbanism, they are different from the Bowden section, which was very much concerned with the suburb being shaped by the spatial production of industrial capitalism; a fragmentary map of the suburb at a particular point in Adelaide’s urban history. Continue Reading…