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black + white

black + white, Indigenous, roadtrip

The Lumen Seed: Adelaide book launch

March 10, 2017

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.

Tin, Lajamanu

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.

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archives, black + white, film, landscape, South Australia

mapping the space outside of Adelaide

January 11, 2017

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

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…

Adelaide, black + white, people, urban

photo-book : The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia

December 28, 2016

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.

newspapers boy, Adelaide

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…

Adelaide, architecture, black + white, South Australia

Citi-Centre

December 19, 2016

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

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.

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architecture, black + white, Mallee, South Australia

Mallee Routes outtake

December 6, 2016

Whilst working through my archives of the photography that I did in the 1980s  when I lived in Bowden, Adelaide I came across this outtake from the Mallee Routes exhibition that Eric, Gilbert and I had at Atkins Photo Lab in October/November 2016. It was an outtake since I eventually decided that I didn’t want to exhibit any large format black and white photos in this particular  exhibition.

ruins, Mantung, SA

ruins, Mantung, SA

In looking back to this period I relaxed that  I came to Adelaide in the 1970s  in  an attempt to escape from the influence of the high seriousness of American modernism that was then sweeping through the newly established photographic galleries. The modernist aesthetic in the US and Australia was established as the “institutional art” supported by the political establishment and championed by cultural conservatives, and thus the antithesis to the avantgardism that closely accompanied modernism’s diffusion in Europe. The post-modern movement in the US can be interpreted as the American version of the avantgarde when it began to take shape in the 1970s and it suggested “new directions and new vistas”  for artists in  cultural politics.

 This period was the tail end of   formalist modernism and industrial capitalism. If it  was  prior to  the emergence of postmodernism in Australia it was the beginning of  the  new era of  postmodernity, then  marked by the Reagan/Thatcher era, the process of de-industrialization,   the advent of economic deregulation, the new salience of globalisation, the emergence of finance capitalism and a neo-liberal mode of governance.