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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…

architecture, colour, digital, roadtrip, topographics

roadtrip to Wallaroo

April 18, 2016

The second step in the roadtrip with an 8×10 has just taken place. It was to Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula. On this occasion I   built on the first roadtrip to the Coorong by  camping instead of renting a house and linking up with Gilbert Roe, a fellow photographers from Adelaide, instead of being on my own.  He is the only photographer that I know in Adelaide who is interested in exploring South Australia, doing road trips,  camping and photographing.

Although I digitally scoped  some agricultural landscapes of the Yorke Peninsula, and the  older style  beach shacks at Wallaroo’s North Beach   the large format photography on this roadtrip was centred around  the Vittera silos at Wallaroo:

silo, Wallaroo

silo, Wallaroo

I’ve been searching for historical precedents for Australian photographers doing roadtrips along the lines of Americans such as Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and  Joel Sternfeld who extended  the tradition of chronicling roadside America that was initiated by Walker Evans in the 1930s. Continue Reading…

colour, digital, history, landscape, ruins, topographics

at Lake Albert

April 10, 2016

After attending  the Centre of  Culture,  Land and Sea’s   informative workshop at Meningie in South Australia.  I used the opportunity  to explore around  Lake Albert and the Narrung Peninsula with its legacy of settler agriculture before driving on  down to Salt Creek  for a photoshoot for the Edgelands project.

Lake Albert, along with Lake Alexandrina,   is a part of the Lower Lakes of the River Murray,  and  is adjacent to the northern lagoon’s eco-system of the Coorong. Being at the bottom end of the highly engineered River Murray,  Lake Albert  suffers from the river’s  minimal environmental flows.  Those at the  terminus of the River Murray receive what is left over after consumptive use in the Murray-Darling Basin.

 Though  the  Barrages at Goolwa were constructed to maintain the Lakes as freshwater systems at a constant water depth, the Lakes/Coorong region is  at the end of a major river systems, which  means that this region is highly sensitive to changes in freshwater flows. Despite the Basin Plan, which has addressed the overallocation of water  from the Basin’s rivers  by irrigated agriculture,  not enough fresh water currently flows into Lake Albert  to flush the lake  out,  so it is salty,  and all the  contaminants from the upper part of the river end up in Lake Albert.
Lake Albert, South Australia

Lake Albert, South Australia

The irrigators around  Lake Albert suffered from a lack of water during the Millennium Drought (from 2002- 2010)—-when Lake Albert was closed off from natural river flows by a Government constructed band at the entrance top the Lake.   Exposure and oxidation of acid sulfate soils due to falling water levels from 2007-2009 in the Lower River Murray and Lower Lakes also resulted in acidification of soils, lake and ground water. The low water levels on Lake Albert  resulted in many of the dairy farmers, who had  relied on pumped water from Lake Albert,   being  forced to sell their cattle and even abandon their dairy farms. Continue Reading…

coastal, digital, landscape

Edgelands: the Coorong

February 20, 2016

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.

Coorong, midday

Coorong, midday


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…

coastal, colour, digital, people

Summer is here

December 20, 2015

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

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…