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Adelaide, architecture, colour, critical writing

State of Hope: a review

April 8, 2017

The latest issue of  the Griffith Review is  no 55,  is called State of Hope and it is about contemporary South Australia.  It is edited by Julianne Schultz and Patrick Allington    and the issue consists of  short essays and memoir, fiction pieces and poetry, and photo stories.  Authors include Robyn Archer, John Spoehr, Peter Stanley, Angela Woollacott, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Chris Wallace, Dennis Atkins, Nicholas Jose, and Ali Cobby Eckermann. This is an Adelaide and South Australia as primarily  seen by those working within a literary culture that includes print journalists in the mainstream media (i.e. Murdoch’s Advertiser no less).

The Griffith Review is a  leading literary magazine in Australia that  sees itself as a “high quality, agenda-setting, quarterly publication, delivering insight into the issues that matter most in a timely, authoritative and engaging fashion”. Griffith  Review peer reviews the submissions  to its various issues and  nearly all of  the members of the expert panel academics in universities in the eastern states. Previous issues have been  devoted to Tasmania and Queensland.

What is presented in these texts is the public role of writers as public intellectuals. Writers, it seems,  have a role to  to challenge and arouse the nation–ie., to speak truth to power— given the pressures of  the new media technologies and the forces of globalisation on Australia’s  literary culture—and, thankfully,  the old split between between academe,  creative writer and critic  is absent.

The  market blurb to the  State of Hope text says that:

As the industrial model that shaped twentieth-century South Australia is replaced by an uncertain future, now more than ever the state needs to draw on the strengths of its past in order to move ahead. Now, on the cusp of change, the state needs to draw on its talent for experiment and innovation in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. State of Hope explores the economic, social, environmental and cultural challenges facing South Australia, and the possibilities of renewal and revitalisation.

This is a reasonable assessment.  South Australia is undergoing extensive de-industrialization that began in the 1970s and an uncertain  post-industrial  future does  loom. However,  South Australia is not alone in this–eg.,  witness Victoria. The process of de-industrialization  and an uncertain future also applies to Australia as a whole after the mining boom.   I also concur that the big shift to renewable energy in South Australia,  as  noted by some contributors,  is an indication of  the shape of a new future for the state.

One characteristic of State of Hope  that  I found   surprising was  the heavy doses of nostalgia with respect to the subjective memoirs of childhood and  youth remembered in Adelaide  in many of the literary contributions. This  nostalgia about the good times in South Australia’s past—-eg.,  when South Australia under Don Dustan could claim to lead the nation in politics, culture and civic virtue— does not engage with  the  contemporary revitalisation of urban life in the CBD.

construction, Franklin St, 2011

Contemporary Adelaide, which  is undergoing rapid change–not just decline– is overlooked  by the looking backwards to the golden days of cheerful,  suburban life in the 1960s and 1970s.  That is 40-50 years ago.  So what about now—everyday urban life in contemporary Adelaide?  Continue Reading…

colour, exhibitions, film, history, Indigenous, landscape

The Lumen Seed: Questions for a Conversation

March 20, 2017

The  questions below were written by myself  in order to facilitate  a  conversation at the launch of Judith Crispin’s The Lumen Seed  book at the Atkins Photo Lab  gallery in Adelaide  on  Friday,  17th March  2017. The questions  were  structured around  The Lumen Seed book,   and they were designed to give some background to the construction of the text for the audience.   They place the emphasis  on Judith’s  photography rather than her poetry,  given that the space for the launch  at the Atkins Photo Lab  is a photography gallery. The audience pretty much took over once we got the conversation rolling.

The images in the post are mine and they were made whilst I was at  Lajamanu.  There  has been one review  of the book so far: –namely, this  review of  The Lumen Seed at the F-Stop photography magazine.  

Lajamanu 

1. Since few people in the audience would have been to either the Tanami Desert or Lajamanu we will start the conversation  here. Lajamanu is 4000 kilometres from Sydney and around 800 kilometres north west of Alice Springs. It’s remote and difficult to get to. So the first question is  why Lajamanu Judith?

2. Remote indigenous communities have a negative  profile in the mainstream media,  and those on the conservative side of politics want to close them down and shift people to the bigger towns. This is  currently happening in Western Australia with support from the Federal Government which has withdrawn funds for essential services including the supply of power, water and management of infrastructure.

When I was at Lajamanu I was surprised at how well the Warlpiri community was functioning. This indicated that  more is going on here  than Tony Abbott’s lifestyle choice. From my brief stay I gained the impression that the life of the community was premised on a synthesis of tradition and modernity.

Is that impression right? If so,  can you tell us how the Warlpiri are succeeding and what they are trying to do? Can you answer in terms of the Warlpiri’s conception of their relationship to Australian modernity.

3. What  do you think is the biggest threat to the Warlpiri’s future at Lajamanu?  Is it  the impact of climate change on the Tanami in the form of more droughts and floods? Or would it be the failure of the younger generation to continue to walk the difficult line  between tradition and modernity?

Trunk + bone

 

Photography book

My experience when I was at  Lajamanu in 2016 was one of being a cultural tourist. I was very uncomfortable in that role, and I wasn’t sure how to step beyond being a cultural tourist to photograph what I was seeing.

4. So Judith, was that your initial experience as a photographer at Lajamanu?  When did you start moving away from  being a cultural tourist to begin to  formulate the ideas behind the Lumen Seed project?

5. Why did you decide to incorporate the broader historical context around the Warlpiri and Central Australia into your photographic project?

Most photography books adopt a similar format: a series of photos in the form of a visual narrative with a brief, written introduction, usually written by someone other than the photographer. The emphasis is on the images. The Lumen Seed, in contrast, is much more multilayered and intertextual.

6. Can you tell us why you took this approach to a photography book?  Continue Reading…

archives, colour, landscape, topographics, Travel

Queenstown, Tasmania

January 16, 2017

We are in the process  of  planning a trip to Tasmania  at the end of January for two weeks. In the first week   Suzanne will walking in  the Wall of Jerusalem National Park with friends and I will be photographing, probably on the West Coast.  In the second week we will travel together around the island in a camper van and check out the Three Capes Walk in the south east of the island, visit Mona, and take in the Australian Wooden Boat Festival   in Hobart.

Just by coincidence I came across an  old roll of 120 film in an old  bag–photos of Queenstown from a holiday in  Tasmania that we had in February 2010. I remember taking the photos from this location, as   I slid on the wet clay  when I was  coming down the slope to return to the car.  I  rolled down the hill and, in the process,  damaged the film winding mechanism of the Rolleiflex SL66 that I was using.   Lucky for me the Rolleiflex  was able to be repaired back  in Adelaide.

Queenstown, Tasmania

Queenstown, Tasmania

These were among  the  photos  that I’d made before I started working on the Tasmania Elegies portfolio.   Those portfolio  photos of the Mt Lyell Mine and the King River  were made on a subsequent trip  to Tasmania,  and they emerged out of the photos that I’d made in 2010. Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, Mallee, roadtrip, Travel

roadtrips

November 22, 2016

The key idea behind the LBM Dispatch, named for and printed by Alex Soth’s limited-run publishing house, Little Brown Mushroom, is a  reimagining of the iconic American roadtrips photography book as a series of small newspapers, each of which chronicles a quick trip Brad Zellar and Alex Soth have taken through a different state or territory of the USA.  Previous Dispatches have covered Michigan, Ohio, and California’s “Three Valleys—Silicon, San Joaquin, and Death” and the Texas Triangle.

They pretend to be  newspapermen and in the course of these road trips they  end up in places that might well have been foreign countries. Little townships, small town service clubs and fraternal organizations, church dances, crime scenes, small business expos all quite different from the bland development  of corporate America.

newspapers, Hopetoun

newspapers, Hopetoun

The Mallee is similar.  Once you  get off the highways and into the heart of the heart of the country  you find that the historical  notions about  regional Australia’s   cultural life and values are still out there. Sure,  they’re  under siege with the  economic hardship and alcohol but there is a strong  local culture, community, social life and sense of place.   The Mallee, judging from my Hopetown photo road trip,   has a strong and  deeply rooted regional identity.   Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, history, Mallee, roadtrip

Weltraum outtake

August 14, 2016

This  35mm outtake is one of the exploratory  pictures that I made whilst I was working out how to approach  photographing the 15 silos on the Mallee Highway project. Several work in progress images from this series  form my contribution to the Weltraum exhibition at Magpie Springs  in the 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale.

The location of the picture is Murrayville in  the Victorian Mallee,  and I was photographing all the silos on the Mallee Highway whilst making my way to the camp at Ouyen with Gilbert Roe.  I made notes as photographed each silo along the way as to side of the silo provided the best perspective and whether am or pm  was the most suitable time.

Murrayville

Murrayville

The options that I had were: should I stand well back from the silo and make it part of the landscape rather than focus on the silo itself;  should I use backlight to give the landscape a gloomy atmosphere; should I use colour or black and white film; what camera would I use? I decided that I would focus on the silo, use frontal light,  work in black and white,  and photograph  with  the Cambo 8 x10 monorail.

In the light of this straight-on gaze of the large format camera  the  photographic approach of the above 35mm  outtake is sidelined to  become a part of the Mallee Project. Continue Reading…