On the way back from Melbourne I spent a couple of days exploring the Coorong around Salt Creek to scope for the second part of the Edgelands project. Edgelands are often seen as dead zones or tracts of land with confused and unassigned values on the urban fringe. Our cities, for instance, have many inactive patches of land that fall out of favor with humans for many reasons. These humdrum urban corridors or borderlands are usually seen as distinctively non-photogenic commonplace spaces.
However, there are spaces that are outside the urban fringe between the carefully defined spaces of farmland and national parks that are also edgelands which have a minimal human engagement. In South Australia these can be found around the Coorong. Most people visiting the Coorong either camp in the Pink Gum wood land near Salt Creek in the national park, or they cross the waters of the Coorong at 42 mile or Tea Tree Crossing off the loop road to the sand dunes for their wilderness camping or to go fishing along the shore of the ocean beach. Parts of the Ngrugie Ngoppup Walk near Salt Creek, for instance, goes through a space that is not obviously occupied and not clearly marked by traditional boundaries of farm and national park.
How then, to photograph this landscape?
I wanted to avoid the dramatic morning and evening light favoured by an environmental Romanticism that places the emphasis on both natural beauty and this remote landscape being a pristine natural world that is a refuge from the ravages of an industrial capitalism fuelled by coal, oil and gas. This has resulted in a substantial level of landscape change —in both its nature and magnitude. The Coorong is a melancholy landscape.
It is a necessary to walk these spaces to discover them, as they are not obvious from the road or through a car windscreen the highway. Ari and I walked part of this space in the middle of the day, so that I could take some snaps with a digital camera to study on the studio’s computer screen when I returned to Encounter Bay. This is a landscape that evokes feelings of uncanny alienation and a mood of dark depression. Continue Reading…
This abstraction of the granite rocks at Kings Head, which is n near Victor Harbor on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, is another out take from the Fleurieuscapes exhibition at Magpie Springs. One reason for this image not making the cut is that I decided that there would be no abstractions in the exhibition, given my 2015 Australian Abstraction exhibition at the Light Gallery in Adelaide during the SALA Festival. Another reason for its exclusion is that the people helping me to curate the pictures for the exhibition judged that the image was too forbidding and austere. It was a part of the grotesque mode of expression in the visual art and it didn’t really fit in the exhibition.
This exhibition is part of the emerging trend in contemporary art photography in Australia and New Zealand that shows a marked and widespread interest in landscape. There has been a tendency to trivialise and overlook landscape photography, including the photography of wilderness.
rock abstract, Kings Head
The textual background to the exhibition is that the genre of landscape has been desperately unfashionable across the arts for so long, the preserve of the Sunday painter and the happy tourist snapper. While the photographic canon includes the greats of landscape photography, more recently photographers have tended to avoid a genre that is so easily linked to the vernacular (ie., happy snappers and tourism) and so difficult to connect to serious intent.
Summer is here in south-eastern Australia.
The temperatures in Adelaide have been in the high 30s and low 40s during December, the fire season is here and the firefighters battle the increasingly frequent bushfires. People are arriving on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula for their Xmas break, the holiday houses are being occupied, the boaties and their expensive boats are lining up on the Encounter Bay boat ramp to go tuna fishing, the days are long with daylight saving, and the beach is the place to go.
Petrel Cove, Victor Harbor
The light is harsh during the summer days, so photography is only possible very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon.
It is now difficult to photograph people on a beach in Australia due to the increasing hostility to “street photography” and parent’s fear about paedophiles stalking their children with cameras. This is a pity because the beach has traditionally been a public space of recreation and leisure that epitomises the personal liberties of Australia’s democratic society. The assumption that the beach is there for everyone to use was contested in the 2005 Cronulla race riots in Sydney Continue Reading…
I’ve started working on my forthcoming Fleuriescapes exhibition at the Magpie Springs Gallery in January/February 2016. The exhibition explores the Fleurieu Peninsula in terms of people, space and place as this opens up a way to gain a perspective on the white colonisation of the region and the contemporary Indigenous absence. The exhibition is the first step in this project about a region that markets itself as Adelaide’s holiday adventure playground.
The history of the Fleurieu Peninsula appears to be premised on the pioneer myth/legend based on the ingenuity hard work and adventurousness of the early settlers and the cultural extinction of the Ngarrindjeri people. An anthropologically constructed image of a southern Indigenous person in a possum skin cloak in the South Australian Museum comes to represent a ‘unique’, but extinct Indigenous presence in the heartland of the white Australian nation.
The story of modernity excludes Indigenous people. It produces a set of foundational myths that are written by signs of development such as the bridge, the jetty and the marina. They all represent the power of western technology to overwrite the ‘natural landscape’. This is the landscape in which Indigenous people and Indigenous interests have been traditionally located. It is assumed that the Indigenous place has been obliterated or covered over by the layers of progress. Continue Reading…
I have noticed that there are a few recurring images in my archives of coastal erosion of the sand dunes in, and around, the Victor Harbor area of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. Since these images are a part of The Littoral Zone they got me thinking about how to construct the series or as a book.
The initial thinking behind these images suggests that the recession of the sand dunes is due, by and large to storm surges which are causing the sand dunes to slowly recede, and that with climate change the sand dune shorelines around the Victor Harbor township and Hayborough will continue to recede. The categories associated with climate change assume that one of the consequences of climate change in the form of a warming world is rising sea levels and these, in turn, when coupled to storm surges cause the recession of the sand dunes along the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
sand dune erosion
The other kind of thinking or the categories behind these discrete group of image is the assumption that a (self-conscious) photography as art is the voice of sensuous particularity against an abstract economic rationality. Photography as art is more than, and beyond, economic reason, the exchange value of the capitalist market, and photography as the avatar of modernity’s technological rationality, with its mechanical technique, automation and deskilling.
How do we make sense of these two modes of thinking: scientific theory and photography as art?