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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…

digital, exhibitions, mobile phone

on cameraphone photography: Skrambled Eggs 6

December 16, 2015

Scrambled Eggs has  been an annual photographic exhibition in Adelaide for the last six years,   and the  2015  exhibition  of  iPhoneography or more correctly, mobile phone photography, is back in the form  of Skrambled Eggs 6 at the  De La Liff  Gallery in Rundle Place in Adelaide’s  Rundle Mall until January 15.

The  ethos of the Skrambled Eggs  collective is  that you don’t need the latest,  expensive professional gear to make  photographs,  since  it’s all about working with what equipment that you have with you at the time. It’s an ethos  that I  wholeheartedly concur with. It shift’s the emphasis from gear acquisition syndrome to the imagery and what it means for us.

Alice Healy, Underwater

Alice Healy, Underwater

The work on show in the   Skrambled Eggs 6 exhibition is what happens when you put a trained,   professional eye  of the  members of the photographic industry in Adelaide behind  the camera of a mobile phone.  The  cameraphone is deemed to be a viable creative option,  and the  show highlights that photos  produced by a modern camera-phone with a designer’s eye is quite different to the world of a mass  of low-quality, self-serving images  that was used by the early critics of mobile phone photography to trash  it as kitsch,  decry it as the cult of the amateur and  dismiss the imagery as not photography, properly so called.

Firstly, Skrambled Eggs 6 is not a curated exhibition. It is a collection of two dozen,  mostly industry-based photographers,   who have a number of images each in their own  allocated space . I looks as if they were given free reign by the organisers with respect to the work.  What unites the  diversity of images and approaches (abstract, experimental, street, landscape, urbanscape etc ) is the view that the camera does not make the photographer.  It’s not what gear you’ve got, it’s the way you use it. The emphasis  is on the trained professional eye.

‘Professional’ is left undefined, but it conventionally refers to a profession and  to the qualities that are attributed to this profession. Usually professions are identified by their organizational structure (in this case the SA branch of AIPP) that ensures that certain standards of quality and expertise are upheld. Judging from the exhibition the inference is that a photographic profession is a  loosely defined collection of individuals who earn money by taking and selling images.

The work of Kate Burns (Atkins) shows the emphasis  of  the trained professional (designer’s) eye.  The large black and white toned images made while driving through North America on  a recent trip in the US have an emotional edge that references, and contributes to,  the Australian Romantic tradition’s representation of mystery and darkness and our attraction to, and fear of,   dark places.   The work is distinctly local,  and  its  contestatory embrace of  internationalism breaks with the provincialist bind that both continues to define Adelaide and South Australia and  identifies  Romanticism with the sublime of nature as wilderness.    The representation of a sense of desolation and foreboding with respect to  the US in Burn’s images also have  traces of  the world-wide shift from modern to contemporary art.

Kate Atkins, Overhead

Kate Atkins, Overhead

This work shifts Australian Romanticism away from a   melancholic yearning  or a nostalgia for communion with nature to on that acts as a critique of contemporary  US society from an Australian perspective.

Mobile phone photography has  definitely come of age,  and  its current intersection with social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) has taken photography into new territory. Mobile phone photography is essentially  a networked camera in that mobile phones are the central  device that has a networked output and audience  for the work. The web is becoming more visual and the easiest stories to consume, create or share aren’t text based. They’re photo based.

The social form of photography is where we are now,  and  no doubt the image quality will continue to improve as well as the interconnectivity with the newer mobile phone models. Apple’s marketing for the iPhone  for instance, really pushes the capabilities of its camera and the  good  quality of pictures it produces.  In the rapidly approaching, mobile-first world mobile devices are the new glossy magazines; text-ridden sites are boring, black and white newspapers.  Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, digital, urban, Wellington

art photography in Wellington

December 7, 2015

My last two visits to Wellington ( New Zealand) have  enabled  me  to  see  that art photography in Wellington looks  to be centred around the PhotoSpace  gallery that is  run by James Gilberd. The gallery  opened in 1992 and it is the longest running photographic gallery in New Zealand.  It  remains the only gallery in the Wellington region dedicated to exhibiting contemporary New Zealand and international photography. It values  a high level of craft and has a stable  of established, regular exhibitors.

 Unfortunately,  147 Cuba Street was closed, when I visited it.  Though there  are no state funded photography galleries in New Zealand,  the   City Gallery Wellington,  regularly exhibits photography. The nearest photographic gallery to PhotoSpace is the McNamara Gallery  in Whanganui.  The current exhibition  is   contemporary ambrotypes and daguerreotypes by Joyce Campbell,  and the gallery has  good  links to contemporary New Zealand photographers and publications. 

This gallery  has done far more foregrounding New Zealand photography over the past decade than the largely conservative Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery,   which have acted to  marginalise  photographers vis-a -is the public gallery system. They  do so  with  exhibition programmes that function as if New Zealand photography wasn’t happening, or if they acknowledged photography’s existence,  they  were noted for their absence  over the past couple of decades in dealing with the medium of photography critically.

Coop Bank, Wellington

Coop Bank, Wellington

The established Wellington-based photographers include Mary McPherson,   Andrew Ross, Peter Black  and  Julian Ward. I knew the photographic work of Lester Blair  from his Flickr days and came across  the photos of Gabrielle Mckone recently whilst  photographing in Wellington. I know next to nothing  about the critical writing on New Zealand art and photography.  I’ve only just discovered that  Geoffrey Batchen  is  currently teaching at Victoria University. That is the extent of my surface knowledge of Wellington art photography.

Continue Reading…