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…
My energies in the last month or so of 2016 have been directed in starting to put material –images and text—together for the photo-book that I have started working on. It is a form of memory work as it is an active seeking out and an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the past. The book is situated in the nexus of photography, archive and memory and it is a working through of personal and collective memory based on my photographic archive.
The first stage is going through the 1980s photography archive, selecting negatives from the contact sheets, scanning the selected images, and then digging around the internet for text to act as a commentary on this decade in Adelaide. The assembled material goes into a post on an old wordpress blog, which acts as a repository of selected material that I can then rework into an initial digital draft using InDesign. Or probably Scrivener, before I turn to InDesign, as I do need a word processor and project management tool that would allow me to compose and structure a difficult document.
newspaper boy, Adelaide
The book’s current working title is The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia and, at this stage, it is composed of three main sections: Adelaide street images, the Bowden archival project, and pictures made away from the city–at the beach or on the road. I have primarily been working on the first two sections and these are looking okay. Continue Reading…
2016 has ended with me in debt from 1 solo exhibition, three group exhibitions and publishing the Abstract Photography book during the year. So 2017 will necessarily be low key, as it is primarily a year of paying off the debts incurred. I have decided to use the period of consolidation to work through my 1980s and 1990 photographic archives to get material for a book tentatively entitled The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia.
Citi-Centre, Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Any photography that I do in 2017 will be primarily concentrated on the collaborative Mallee Routes project in order to build up the images in my digital and film galleries so that there is material for a second exhibition. One is tentatively being planned for in late 2017.
The 1980s in Adelaide witnessed a building boom of office development that was fueled by the deregulation of the exchange rate and the financial system. By 1985 Australia had become more integrated into a global market, partly because the internationalisation of the world’s capital and financial markets had already proceeded so far that it was more or less impossible for a small country like Australia to resist moving in the same direction. Deregulation in Australia by the Hawke-Keating Labor Government created culture of unrestrained growth a boom in property and tourist developments, and speculative investment by managers unprepared and untrained for the consequences.