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film, landscape, photography, roadtrip

Australian Roadtrips

November 10, 2019

I am currently reading Rebecca Dagnall’s practice based research PhD entitled, Landscape photography and the imaginary of an Australian Gothic. It was done in 2017 at RMIT, and consists of  three photographic projects: In Tenebris, The road trip, and Absence and presence: states of being in the Australian landscape. This blog post refers to Dagnell’s research around Australian road trips.

Road trips is an interest of mine. I have been making them and photographing over a number of years. Previous posts on this topic are here and here. My work for the Mallee Routes project is structured around road trips into the Mallee country.

Dukes Highway, South Australia, 2019

Dagnall starts the research part with David Campany’s recent The open road — photography and the American road trip; a book that provides a history of photography on the road through featuring the work of twenty photographers to document how artists have pictured America since the decisive work of Robert Frank in the 1950s. She then turns her attention to road trips and photography in Australia.

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digital, digital image, film

the digital image

January 27, 2019

A common argument in photographic theory is that the triumph of the digital image as the contemporary form of photography forces a reevaluation of the traditional assumption of correspondence between the image and some form of reality of which it is said to be an imprint.   The argument is that digital  images that begin their life as binary data and are  driven  by algorithms  cannot be comprehended through the conventional  trinity of representation, the index and the punctum.  A major shift has taken place with the emergence of the networked image.

As a photographer I understand  the digital image to be an evolution from analogue photography: to all intents and purposes a digital image made with a digital camera  is  little different to the one that is made with an analogue camera.  I situate myself in the world in the act of photographing,  and  then I use these  working tools to construct visual representations. The  Sony a7R111 digital camera is an automated,   computational and pre-programmed tool compared to  the entirely manual Leica M 4-P analogue camera that was made in the 1970s.   The trajectory  in digital photography is towards the expensive professional high end. This  means  increased  automation,   a pre-programmed apparatus,  and more and more AI being built into the post processing software in order to  counter the competition from the increasingly sophisticated cameras in  smart phones.

Here is a digital image made with a digital Sony-a7 R111 camera:

quartz, am

Here is the analogue photograph   made with  the all manual  Leica M 4-P analogue camera.  The negative  has been scanned into a digital file and then processed in Lightroom.

The differences between the two technologies within this  logic of representation are minimal  when they are viewed on a computer screen after being edited with Lightroom software.  The object —ie., the quartz  and creek in the two images –is known to us as a representation of the object.  Photography is a process that mediates the world with the agency of light to produce legible images.  

From my perspective as a working photographer the main difference between the two technologies is evolutionary. The digital technology is more convenient to use  and  it offers greater flexibility  for  hand held photograph in low light situations–eg., at dawn.   As a photographer I continue to work within the trinity of representation, the index and the punctum, with both digital and analogue cameras.   However,   I do  realise that the image on the computer screen  made with a digital camera resembles the look of a traditional photograph  because the computational processes are currently designed by the manufacturers  to make these data packages look familiar to those working within the photograhic tradition.

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Adelaide, archives, black + white, film, topographics

Adelaide Photography 1970-2000: Submissions called

November 17, 2018

I have finally picked up working on the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book  with Adam  Dutkiewicz that is to  be published by Moon Arrow Press.  There has been more than a year’s break from the early stages of planning  due to  other book and exhibition commitments by Adam and myself. We have just called for submissions for  the portfolios in the book,  and we are now sitting back and waiting to see what comes in from the call out.  Though it is not really clear at this early stage what kind of  work will be submitted,  the book’s explicit regional  focus  will  fill one of the  gaps in  the art history of Australian photography that has traditionally been  written  around a cumulative teleology of styles and periods.

The design of the book is simple: each photographer will be given 6-8 pages to present their work from this period,  and they will have a text  to describe their work and their biography or profile.   As there are currently around  20 photographers who expressed an interest in submitting a portfolio and there is some text, the book looks to be  around  130 pages.  The launch of the book will be at an exhibition of some of the prints in Adelaide early in 2020.

The year 2000 is a useful cutoff point  for the book because this is when photography started to go global:  the explosion of websites, art fairs, festivals, biennales, travelling museum exhibitions, catalogues, conferences, artist residencies etc associated with the international  transmission of objects,  ideas and photographers operating across the boundaries of nation states. If this meant that the hold that European and North American artists had over the production of contemporary art has been broken, that the art world has become more event-driven with biennials and art fairs in far-flung locations, then it also means the biennales are institutional sites whose ways of seeing  contain an aesthetic regime of experience.

sand dunes, Largs Bay, Adelaide

My own portfolio is structured around  my  shift from street photography to topographics. This would exclude the landscape photographs,  and it foreshadows my turn to,  and latter embrace of,  a topographical approach to still photography. The topographical  turn, which  was made during  this period,  with both the Port Adelaide series and the spatial interpretations  of Adelaide, was largely shaped by using  large format cameras.  It was a foreshadowing in the sense of my not consciously relating this to the New Topographics tradition in the US, even though I was consciously photographing  a  human altered landscape. Continue Reading…

architecture, black + white, film, roadtrip, South Australia

a photocamp at Wallaroo

August 12, 2017

The picture below of silos at Wallaroo on the north-west of York Peninsula in South Australia was made  whilst on my first photocamp with Gilbert Roe  in 2016. I had realised that day trips into the Mallee would not work  for  the Mallee Routes project   since I photograph in the early morning or late afternoon light. So  for the road trips to work  I needed to  camp in a specific location and work from there for several days. I need to get to know the area, the subject matter and the lighting conditions.

Wallaroo was a test run to check out our  old camping equipment that we hadn’t  used since the 1990s. I needed  to see what still worked,  what  needed to be replaced  to make a  photo camp successful, and to judge whether or not I was still up for camping.  Much to my surprise, the camp  at Wallaroo worked a treat, and  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

silo, Wallaroo, York Peninsula

My various experiences  at the subsequent  photo camps at Ouyen, Hopetoun, Loxton and Hopetoun  have  resulted in the acquisition of a new tent, a new stove and  a  portable fridge. The battery and  the solar panels to keep the fridge running at the photo camp whilst I am out exploring the local region  during the day are the next  necessary items to acquire. Then camping on a phototrip  is no longer a hardship.
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Adelaide, archives, black + white, film, history, people, publishing

The Bowden Archives: in publication

July 17, 2017

The Bowden Archives  is is  now in publication.  I took the image  files  to the publisher–Wakefield Press— on  Monday, the 17th July.  I still have the text, or rather the  three texts, to finish. I am currently struggling to get  them into some short of shape. The overall  argument is still very implicit and fuzzy, and  the arguments of each of the texts  are  still  hazy.  I have another month to get the texts  to flow, and once that is done  I will  finally have a draft of the book .

A book  is the next stage after publishing the images  online in  Flickr and then a WordPress blog. It is very much a DIY project  at a time when there is a substantial attack on knowledge, inquiry and,  cultural memory caused by  the austerity  regime imposed by conservatives.  This has seen ongoing public funding cuts to  science authorities, universities, research programs, museums, archives,  galleries and the public broadcaster along with a general dismissal of photography as a naïve, indulgent or downright irresponsible way to spend one’s time and energy.

Bowden kids, Adelaide

At this stage the preface is entitled ‘Living in Bowden‘, the second essay is entitled ‘Alternate Photographic Histories’ and the third text is entitled ‘Photography,  Memory,  Place’.  The idea behind the book is to give a grounding to this style of regional photography; one that breaks with the positivist conception of documentary photography in the art institution by  making the shift to hermeneutics and interpretation. This means that the photos are made rather than taken. It is a small and modest step to helping create a strong, critical visual culture to counter the latent anti-intellectualism      directed at those people who want to talk/write  about the ideas on which photography rests, as well as making images.  Continue Reading…