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topographics

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 to be published by Moon Arrow Press after more than a year’s break,   due our  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 what kind of  work will be submitted at this stage, the book’s regional  focus  will  fill one of the  gaps in  the art history of Australian photography that was traditionally based around a cumulative teleology of styles and periods.

The design 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.  As there are currently more than  20 photographers who expressed an interest in submitting a portfolio and there is some text, the book looks to be  over 100 pages.   It appears  as if the book  is going to be a substantial text.

Adelaide Hills + city

My own portfolio is structured around  my  shift from street photography to topographics. This excludes the landscape photographs and it foreshadows my turn to,  and latter embrace of,  a topographical approach to 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, landscape, Melbourne, ruins, topographics

drosscapes

October 12, 2018

Georgina Downey has usefully suggested that the collaborative   project of  photographing industrial Melbourne by  Stuart Murdoch and myself can be usefully framed as belonging to what landscape architects,  call drosscapes.  We have been photographing in and around waste urbanscapes that are different from edge lands  as it is a junkyard that is a by product of industrialisation and is in the process of being redeveloped.

The  concept of  drosscape was coined by Alan Berger (a landscape architect and associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design)  in 2006 in his book, Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America to refer to the waste landscapes. Berger proposed classifying a differentiation between waste landscapes (places that store, manage or process urban or industrial waste), wasted landscapes (polluted or abandoned sites), and wasteful landscapes (huge extensions of developed land with virtually no use for the community).

wasteland, Nth Melbourne

The idea of  drosscape applies to the industrial Melbourne site that Stuart and I have been photographing,  as this wasteland is currently being redeveloped as part of the extension of the Melbourne underground. Berger says that a  drosscape is:

“the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space (i.e., redevelopment, toxic waste removal, tax revenues, etc.)”. As a verb, he sees the ‘drosscaping’ as the practice incorporating social programs and activities into the transformed waste landscape.”

He adds  that one must not commit the mistake to call an abandoned train station by itself a drosscape. In this instance, a drosscape would be the integration of new horizons onto the unused site, which by itself it is only dross. Continue Reading…

history, Melbourne, roadtrip, topographics, urban

Topographics and a changing Melbourne

April 20, 2018

As mentioned in  the posts here and here on my  low key  Rethinking  Documentary photography blog  I am involved in  a collaborative photographic project  with Stuart Murdoch on changing Melbourne. An exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab’s gallery in Adelaide  during South Australia’s 2018 SALA Festival is the first public showing of this  collaborative body of work.

Linfox, Footscray,  Melbourne

Melbourne, like New York in the 1930s,  is changing very fast and the currently existing parts of the historical,  industrial Melbourne will be gone tomorrow. These are  the familiar things a city  that are overlooked until they are gone. Bernice Abbott’s well known 1930s large format photo project, Changing New York,  is a historical reference point in spite of the truncated nature of the 1939 book.   Many of Abbott’s  photographs from this body of work are now in the public domain,  as they have been made available online by the New York Public Library.  These photos are a  reference point  for our photographing a changing Melbourne,   even   though  there are big differences between the two cities and the photographic projects.  Continue Reading…

digital, Melbourne, topographics, urban

the urban documentary  project

January 26, 2018

I have been reading Ming Thein’s recent post  on The Rise and Decline of Popular Photography  and connecting it to my recent experiences  in continuing with  my  urban documentary style of photography in Melbourne. His  observations  on the current shifts in popular photography are interesting, and they  help to  put this  low profile project  of mine into a market and cultural context and, in doing so,  highlights  what is needed  to continue to work on projects such as this.

A  core point in Thein’s post is his insight that simple economics means that the business model of the professional photographer  isn’t what it used to be,  and that the incentive to invest in skill is lower. He says that we  are seeing a number of studios going out of business and pros switching to doing other (non-photographic) things. The contemporary visual saturation means that as  there are more images being made than ever, so  it’s difficult to make an individual image stand out or to  justify the time and effort (and cost) invested in its creation.

I am finding  this to  be the case with the 3 year+ Mallee Routes project. It requires a lot of time, effort  and money to make the images  for this project and then to exhibit them in a gallery.    Similarly with  the road trips project or  the low key urban documentary work  project in Melbourne:

Moonee Ponds Creek, West Melbourne

Take the latter as an example.  The  recent roadtrip to  Melbourne and  stay coincided with a spike in the summer  temperatures.   It was hot (40 degrees Centigrade),   very humid and the light was terrible when I was out scoping the remains of industrial Melbourne in the West Melbourne area.  So I was limited to scoping  for a future session,   even though I had the large format gear in the car.  This meant that the scoping on this trip was just location searching–much like someone whose job it  is to go out and scout or  look for good locations for a movie film shoot.  Having found the gritty, grimy  location in West Melbourne  I now need to make a return trip to Melbourne  in the autumn. This is time, effort and money with no exhibition  or book in sight.    Continue Reading…

architecture, black + white, critical writing, history, landscape, South Australia, topographics

the spatial turn + topographic photography

August 25, 2017

The idea of linking  the spatial turn in the humanities to my 1980s photos emerged whilst I was exploring my   photographic archive for the proposed Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-80 book to be published by Moon Arrow Press.  Noticing  a shift in my photography  from street to topographics,  I started to make connections  in  my archive blog  to the spatial turn in the humanities in relation to the landscape and space that had emerged in the 1980s. This spatial  turn refers to  the landscape and space being  understood in terms of  them being socially constructed and continuously reshaped.

The factory in this photo, which was situated near the railway bridge  has long gone. So have the mangroves,  replaced by  a housing development that was designed to revitalise Port Adelaide.  This then is an urbanscape whose history is that of being continuously transformed by the power of capital since the 19th century.  It is not a landscape the traditional English sense of  a picture of natural inland scenery,  or  the Australian sense of a national landscape painting associated with Romanticism as in the Heidelberg School.     Landscape in this traditional sense  usually veils historically specific social relations behind the smooth and often aesthetic appearance of “nature. The tradition of the  landscape in the visual arts acts to “naturalize” what is deeply cultural,  social and economic.

mangroves, Port River estuary

The emphasis of the Port Adelaide  photography, which  is on place  and the mapping of place,  is a part of the tradition of chorography  that seeks to understand and represent the unique character of individual places. In chorography, the skills of the artist (painter and writer) were more relevant than those of the astronomer and mathematician, which were critical in geography.  Choreography is a part of the  pictorial topographic mapping tradition.  Continue Reading…