Browsing Category

Mallee

drought, landscape, Mallee, water

climate change + photography

September 17, 2018

When I was on the Balranald photocamp for the Mallee Routes project exploring the Yanga woolshed and homestead I noticed the  dryness of  the country was around  the Murrumbidgee River that was caused by lack of autumn and winter rainfall, the protracted drought and climate change. As  I drove through  the Yanga National Park  to the red gum forest at Woolpress Bend  I noticed that the decline in  rainfall  meant  that none of the little creeks (eg., Uara Creek) were flowing in and around the national park; the wetlands were dry and  the  trees in the floodplains were dying.I noticed that there were hardly any old mature  River Red Gum trees–they’d been   logged to fuel river boats, for fencing and other uses. This changed the structure of the forests along the Murrumbidgee River.

The evidence suggests that human-caused  climate change is exacerbating drought conditions in parts of Australia, especially in the southeast (and southwest) part of  Australia. My assumption is that as climate change is already here,  so  we need to brace for  its impact,  and  to start learning how to adapt to a warmer world in south eastern Australia.

trees, Yanga Creek, NSW

The lower Murrumbidgee River was historically unknown for  the richness of the floodplains due to the natural flow regimes from  the melting  snow in the Great Dividing Range in  the spring. This flow regime has been modified  by river regulation  that includes building of dams and weirs, diversion of river flow by extraction, alteration of  flows on floodplains with levees and structures to allow water storage.   Continue Reading…

architecture, landscape, Mallee, roadtrip

Returning to the silo project

August 11, 2018

The   conceptually based  and low key Silo project   is taking  me a while to refine and to realize in spite of its simplicity.  It has been refined to  a minimal project  that  consists of  photographing 15 silos on the Mallee Highway from Talem Bend to Piangil  using one camera (an 8×10 Cambo  monorail),   one lens (a Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar 300mm f/5.6), one type of film (Ilford FP4 Plus) and one tripod (a Linhof Heavy Duty).The photographs,  like those of the conceptual artists in the  1960s and early 70s (e.g., Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations),   will be  paired with words in the form of titles and published in book form.   There is nothing complicated about this kind of project.

Despite this conceptual simplicity and clarity  it is taking me quite a  while  to realize the idea behind  the  project.   It  started in 2016  on  some road trips,  but, to my surprise,  I have discovered that getting it  up and running has proved to be  difficult.    I initially thought that I would photograph in colour as well as black and white but that approach ended in confusion.  I  then encountered  various problems  using the camera,  the coverage limitations of  the  initial lens I was using (a Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar 210mm f/5.6),  and  difficulties developing the 8×10 sheet film without my own darkroom.

silo, Mallee Highway, Victoria

I also  thought   that I could  work on the Silo project whilst simultaneously working on the   Mallee Routes one,   given that I was  frequently travelling up and down the Mallee Highway to go toad from  the various Mallee Routes photo camps.  However,  I found that though I carried the 8×10 Cambo with with me whilst  on the Mallee Routes road trips,    I would never  get around to using it to work on the silo project.  I was too caught up in the Mallee Routes project. I eventually came to  realise  that these were two separate projects that required quite different approaches to photography.   Continue Reading…

architecture, Mallee, roadtrip, South Australia, topographics

contemporary Australian roadtrips

March 16, 2017

It is good to see that road trips –as distinct from the expedition,  the field trip or travel photography –have started to  become popular amongst  Australian  art photographers as distinct from the American road trip tradition, which  largely happened after 1945 with its myths about driving west in the car to The Promised Land.

We can begin to think in terms of a photographic tradition  of road trips in Australia as a genre:  one that is framed by the modernists  as the act of being  on the road;  the art of individuals–the lone photographer– producing discrete works;  and the photograph as a self-contained work of art.  The road trip is a part of a dream of being on the open road;   the  photography is an existential act of wrangling with an alien world, mastering it by anthologising it,  and giving unique insights into what lay behind everyday appearances. The road trip genre  tends to be biographical and personal.

A starting point for constructing this tradition, given the decline in the curatorial interest in photography in the 21st century,   would be the  2014  exhibition,  The Road: Photographers on the move 1970-85 exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art,  even if it was confused about what constitutes a road trip–Robert Rooney photographing the same car  in different locations around Melbourne–with its reference to  the serial propositions of Ed Ruscha such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962)—is not a road trip. The 1985 cut off  date meant that  the exhibition  did not include  the latter road trip work by Trent ParkeNarelle Autio  or the work of David Marks.

I am slowly working away on a road trip project  and posting the images on  my On the Road  Tumblr blog. There are some more from the 1980s on my  archival blog.  Even though it is envisioned  to be a book,  this  project is based on several trips and it currently has no title or theme.    Liquid Moments?  Oddly Squared?   No Maps, No Plans? Easy Roads?  Dark Lies the Road?

The image below of an altered landscape in the South Australian mallee  is  from the archives,  and it one of the earliest of my  road trip  photos.

silo + tractor, SA Mallee

The South Australian photographer  Che Chorley has a book in production from  his 2016 Land Sea You Me  road trip  (bike trip) from Eucla in Western Australia to Nelson on the Glenelg River in Victoria.   The Melbourne based  Nathan Stolz is on his  six months A Long and Winding Road  road trip to  explore and probe Australian identity and cultural difference in the the early 21st century. My work in  the  The Long Road to Lajamanu  works within the road trip tradition.

There may well be other art photographers who have archives  of road trip photos  and/or are working on contemporary road trip projects in Australia that I don’t know about.   Eric Algra comes to mind.    Continue Reading…

architecture, critical writing, history, Mallee

documentary photography: a note

February 26, 2017

Australian Photography: The 1980s was a photographic  exhibition curated by Helen Ennis at  the Australian National Gallery around 1988, the year of  Australia’s Bicentenary.    This event triggered debate on Australian national identity, Aboriginal rights, historical interpretation and multiculturalism.

This survey style exhibition focused on both new work by emerging artists, by which was meant a new generation of professionals trained in the art schools;  as well as recent work  by those artists who had began their careers in the mid to late 1970s,  and whose work has often addressed more traditional photographic concerns in the 1980s.

Carwell, Victorian Mallee

Carwarp, Victorian Mallee

In the catalogue Ennis observed that due to the centrality of photography’s position with postmodernism, some photographic work  has enjoyed as high profile in exhibitions of contemporary art. However, photographs displaying more traditional concerns, for example, those made in the photo documentary and formalist styles,  are rarely considered in the art world.

As an  example of  exhibitions of contemporary art that gave prominence to photographs Innes mentions Australian Perspecta and  the Biennale of Sydney exhibitions held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. These were photos  that displayed clear links to works of art rather than photography  that seem to be derived from a particular knowledge of the medium and its history.  Australian Perspecta, which was  a biennial survey show to  showcase Australian contemporary art  ran from 1981 until 1999 and it is an example of the way in which the State Galleries  focused on the big national and international survey exhibitions as well as the  block-buster touring shows due to their  capacity to generate large amounts of revenue.

Continue Reading…

architecture, black + white, Mallee, South Australia

Mallee Routes outtake

December 6, 2016

Whilst working through my archives of the photography that I did in the 1980s  when I lived in Bowden, Adelaide I came across this outtake from the Mallee Routes exhibition that Eric, Gilbert and I had at Atkins Photo Lab in October/November 2016. It was an outtake since I eventually decided that I didn’t want to exhibit any large format black and white photos in this particular  exhibition.

ruins, Mantung, SA

ruins, Mantung, SA

In looking back to this period I relaxed that  I came to Adelaide in the 1970s  in  an attempt to escape from the influence of the high seriousness of American modernism that was then sweeping through the newly established photographic galleries. The modernist aesthetic in the US and Australia was established as the “institutional art” supported by the political establishment and championed by cultural conservatives, and thus the antithesis to the avantgardism that closely accompanied modernism’s diffusion in Europe. The post-modern movement in the US can be interpreted as the American version of the avantgarde when it began to take shape in the 1970s and it suggested “new directions and new vistas”  for artists in  cultural politics.

 This period was the tail end of   formalist modernism and industrial capitalism. If it  was  prior to  the emergence of postmodernism in Australia it was the beginning of  the  new era of  postmodernity, then  marked by the Reagan/Thatcher era, the process of de-industrialization,   the advent of economic deregulation, the new salience of globalisation, the emergence of finance capitalism and a neo-liberal mode of governance.