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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…

Art, colour, critical writing, digital

photographic gatekeeping’s framing

June 18, 2016

One of the  notable tendencies in contemporary photography is a closing of the ranks in responses to the digital revolution  that has transformed  photography’s technology,  seen digital photography  undeniably become  the pre-eminent means of imaging and photographers as a profession feeling beleaguered. Yhje response is the deployment of the frame  that separates the inside from the outside.John Szarkowski, past director of photography at MOMA, defines the photographic frame as “the central act of photography”–the line that separates in from out. Framing, according to this reading, delimits, controls, and encases meaning.

 Today the internet is filled with photos,  the internet is the realm of every person. Photography is now a means of expression common to everyone and exclusive to no one,   and we  mostly view images on a computer screen. Self-printing (eg., Blurb) has become more viable,   but it hits the mass distribution problem in getting the book  available in  the brick and mortar retail bookstores and on Amazon. The profession/industry is smaller and poorer.bThe photographic industry is beleaguered.

What emerges  from feeling beleaguered is a tacit form of  photographic gatekeeping in the form of  a  closing  of  ranks and the deployment of frames.  This  framing is most noticeable in the way the the art gallery encloses and displays. It cuts an inside from an outside, closing that inside on itself as pure interiority and surrounding it with value of art. The art Gallery—a museum?—  as frame is thus the constitution of the space that constitutes art by excluding what remains as other, its heterogeneity reduced to the status of nonart. The canonicity of the art gallery’s   collection is therefore haunted by a loss of  what is excluded –the trace of its other. Art history is built on these exclusions.

 However, what I also have in mind is a visual frame that takes the form of photographers  keeping their cards and contacts close to their chest,  and avoid sharing information with friends and colleagues for fear that someone else’s success might somehow come at their own expense.  By doing  this they are acting as gatekeepers within  the diffuse and informal distribution of power of  the networked and distributed nature of the photographic industry.
along Hall Creek Rd

along Hall Creek Rd

You can see this gatekeeping around photographic festivals,  as these are premised on inner and outer, core and fringe of photography as an art form.   The  competition is based on being on the inner or in the core. The means you have made it. You are successful. It’s good for your CV. Your career is on the up.  The outer or the fringe is for the hacks and amateurs. This gatekeeping  is understandable in the sense that art is a business and it has career potential.  So you must maximise your profile and marketing brings in commissions. Gatekeeping is necessary to stay ahead of one’s competitors.   Continue Reading…

colour, landscape, topographics

South Australian landscapes

May 21, 2016

Whilst  I am  travelling around,  and   camping in,   selected locations in South Australia and Victoria to photograph the silos   for the silo project,  I am slowly starting to broaden out to photograph the landscape that  the silos are situated in  along with the nineteenth century regional architecture . This is a photography of “what-has-been”, a tracing of some past moment as it were, but one that has an ongoing presence in the present, is part of an attempt to regain a historical understanding  of the region.

fence+lake, Coorong

fence+lake, Coorong

I have been looking at the  Geoff Wilson’s    South Australian landscapes as well as Eric Algra’s Postcards from Forgotten Places and Postcards in Colour  in the context of my South Australian regional landscape portfolio. Wilson and Algra have explored South Australia before me and they  have been exploring locations along  the roads that I’m starting to travel on. The work they have done acts as signposts in a  region that is largely unknown to me. Their digital imaging are  historical markers  in an image culture that is dominated by the mass media  whose feedback loop constitutes   a serious challenge to historical consciousness and critical thinking.

 Algra, for instance,  has extensively explored  the Mallee whilst on his trips between Melbourne and Adelaide and  his crisscrossing  the South Australian Mallee.   His  keen eye for what is significant  for  people living in the Mallee, and   his inputs into South Australia’s visual culture,  highlights  the richness of photography’s contribution to the way we see the world.  Algra’s  vernacular photography   is not part of the   academic writing and its conversation about photography in Australia because that writing  is still  primarily a narrative of photography’s aesthetic aspirations and the great names of the photographic canon. In Australia, like the United States, photography entered through art history and so  photographs were  studied as aesthetic objects using formalist methods.
colour, landscape, topographics

A recreational lake in the Mallee

May 15, 2016

One of the side trips on the Mallee Highway silo  photoshoot in Victoria was to look for, and scope,  edgelands around Ouyen to continue part two of the project.  I did this on the last day  when it was bright and sunny and of no use  to me for  taking photos of silos with a large format camera. Bright and sunny is normal in the  Victorian Mallee, with overcast days being the exception. From my travelling around I could see that the Mallee is a specialist grain growing areas diversifying from livestock production (sometime in the 1980s).

 I spend the Wednesday morning driving around the boundaries of the town and I stumbled on this behind the golf course just over a kilometre form the centre of town:
felled trees, Ouyen

felled trees, Ouyen

It wasn’t private land so I  wandered around to  have a look. The trees were being felled so that  large basin could  be dug out.  I kept on walking around to discover why a basin here.  A  sign lying on the side of the road said that this  basin that was  under construction was for a man made recreational  lake. It’s ambitious as it 700 metres long by 200 metres wide, with a depth of five metres when full, and  it will cover about 14 hectares.  Continue Reading…