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.
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…
I struggled with my photography on the recent phototrip to the Wimmera-Mallee for the Mallee Routes project I am working on with Eric Algra and Gilbert Roe. Though it involved slow travelling as a way of making sense of a changing world, my method of working –scoping scenes with a digital camera, then re-photographing with film cameras at a latter date—quickly hit its limits.
I was there on the cusp of summer. It was hot and dry and the light was very bright, intense and contrasty. I could only work very early in the morning after sunrise and in the early evening for a very short period of time. The exploring and scoping of material was during the heat of the day the distances involved in travelling from town to town—about 50 km– meant that it was not feasible for me to return to what I had previously sketched in the brief period of time that I was there.
Memorial Hall, Hopetoun
We camped at the Mallee Bush Retreat on the foreshore of Lake Lascelles in Hopetoun, and I mostly photographed around this regional town. This image of the Memorial Hall was made around 8pm on the last night. We had just come out of the pub and I saw the soft light on the building’s facade. I quickly scoped it, but I had no time to re-photograph it with my 5×4 Linhof before the gentle light disappeared. What I have is a photographic document in the form of a digital file.
In our culture of computer-pictures--our society of information is a society of pictures—it is held that with the emergence of computer-generated imagery the very foundation and status of the photographic document is challenged due to the profound undermining of photography’s status as an inherently truthful pictorial form.It is true that digital nature of the image has challenged the essential qualities of analogue photography: its evidential nature, and the identification as a form of visual truth. It is also true that representing the world through a camera lens is giving way to new forms of vision and image with the new digital image technologies associated with the computer.
This image is no deadpan documentation; nor a mummified effigy that is properly housed in a museum; nor a fading memory in a post-photographic culture of what photography once was. Looking at this particular photographic file on my computer screen is to look at the past: this photograph gives me a particular recollection of an experience and it gives me something to hold onto about he Mallee’s history. Continue Reading…
The Weltraum exhibition at Magpie Springs for the 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale was finally hung this morning. All those who are participating int he exhibition chipped in. A big thanks to Jeff Moorfoot, whose expertise gained from running the Ballarat International Foto Biennale as creative director (he’s now the editor of Beta Developments in Photography), helped me put the finishing touches to the exhibition.
Seeing some of the silo images hung at Weltraum allowed to me to assess whether to continue to photograph the silos in black and white or colour in the future. This is an early colour image of a silo at Linga that I made with the 5×7 Cambo monorail.
I’ve decided to go with black and white with the colour as a supplement since the colour doesn’t add that much to the project. Continue Reading…
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.
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…
The Mallee project is now up and running. It kinda came together, spontaneously. How about that?
Our initial meeting earlier this week at Henley Beach to kickstart the Mallee project was able to take place because Eric Algra had flown over to Adelaide from Melbourne to work for a week on his new Elizabeth project. It was a fruitful meeting that covered a lot of ground. All of us share a fascination with the Mallee, its history, and its social and agricultural landscape. This is a dry, hot region featuring sand dunes, salt bushes, shrubs and strange dwarf gum tree, Eucalyptus Dumosa, usually called Mallee. What’s more we are are comfortable in each other’s company.
We–Eric Algra, Gilbert Roe and myself — reckoned that we would have enough work from our previous road trips to the Mallee to have a modest group exhibition this year. This initial exhibition, which kicks the public side of the project off, will be in October at Atkins Photo Lab’s new gallery space in Adelaide. This is at the same time as APSCON16 is happening in Adelaide— that is, the annual conference of the Australian Photographic Society, which is the national body of the very active, state based camera clubs.
garage, Tailem Bend
This is the first time that I will have worked on a project with a group of photographers, and it will be interesting to see how the project develops over the next few years, as we continue to build up a body of work from our future road trips and exhibit in various towns and cities. Maybe we could exhibit online or bring some writers or poets in? It’s envisaged as a multidimensional project.