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urban

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…

digital, Melbourne, topographics, urban

in Melbourne: topographics

May 8, 2017

I had several days in  Melbourne  centred around working with Stuart Murdoch on Saturday editing  the 80 or so images for the Bowden Archives book.   Thanks to Stuart  I now have a dummy of  the book which I can show to various people to see how they react, their  impressions and judgements.

Whilst in Melbourne I helped Helga Leunig set her stall up at the Other Art Fair at the Facility in Kensington; saw some  Penelope Hunt’s  images from her  Remains to be Seen and Water Lilies   projects at her stall in the Other Art Fair; managed to  take a few snaps around Docklands;  had some printing done at Magnet; heard about an upcoming Melbourne Photo Festival; saw  the NGV’s Festival of Photography that featured Bill Henson and William Eggleston;   meet up with both  Eric Algra  re the Mallee Routes project and friends from the Lajamanu trip;  and was shown around  Sunshine by Stuart Murdoch. I wasn’t able to make  any photos for the Mallee Routes project on my  way back from Melbourne to Adelaide.

However, late on Saturday afternoon Stuart and I  went on a photo shoot on the Western Ring Road. It took us a while to access  this location situated amongst the various  freeways connected to the Western Ring Road  for our topographical  photo shoot:

Western Ring Rd, Melbourne

The photographic highpoint of the trip was this topographical photoshoot with Stuart even though  it was very windy and the lovely afternoon autumn light had gone.  We only had time to scope the location on this urban  freeway corridor and  to take a few photos with our medium format cameras.  It’s a good location for a large format shoot with the right conditions: clouds, afternoon winter light and little in the way of a south westerly wind.

This brief photoshoot  raised the question of a topographical approach to photography.  What is it? In  Andrew Sayer’s book Australian Art (2001)  topographics refers to the colonial drawings that came out of naval and military culture and derived from the need got recognise coastlines. Often they are views from the water looking towards the shore. The standard reference point  for contemporary Australian topographical photographers is the 1975 New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape  exhibition  at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York which was  curated by William Jenkins, where  the photographers were mapping the built environment of  the late 20th century American western landscape with its motels, housing developments, office parks, and endless parking lots.

In the catalogue essay Jenkins  interpreted  the exhibition images of the American West and Midwest as being “reduced to an essentially topographical state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion”.  The subsequent reframing and restating of the exhibition 40 years latter  interpret it as reinventing the genre of   the landscape as the photographers   grappled with finding a new idiom through which to represent the built environment. Continue Reading…

Adelaide, architecture, topographics, urban

place and memory

January 3, 2017

In an earlier post about  The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia   project I mentioned that  the book increasingly looks to be about place and memory.

The places in the book are the Adelaide CBD, Bowden and Adelaide’s suburban beaches. They are places in the sense that memory is formed in and by place through experiential interactions and in turn, place triggers personal and collective memory  

Conroys, Bowden

Conroys, Bowden

Certainly my memories of these places are being triggered by the specific photographs that I have been selecting  from  my 1980s and 1990s  archives. Many of my memories  from this period have long been forgotten.  They are slowly returning as I reconstruct this period through photos and research material about the process of de-industrialization in South Australia. Continue Reading…

Adelaide, black + white, people, urban

photo-book : The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia

December 28, 2016

My energies in the last month or so of 2016 have been directed in  starting to put material –images and text—together for the photo-book that I have started working on. It is a form of memory work as it is an active seeking out and an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the past. The book is situated in the nexus of photography, archive and memory  and it is a working through of personal and collective memory based on my photographic archive.

The first stage  is  going through the 1980s photography  archive, selecting negatives from the contact sheets,  scanning  the selected images,  and then digging around the internet for  text to act as a commentary on  this decade in Adelaide.  The assembled  material goes  into a post on  an old wordpress blog, which acts  as a repository of selected material that I can then rework into  an initial  digital draft  using InDesign. Or probably Scrivener, before I turn to InDesign,  as I  do need a word processor and project management tool that  would allow me  to compose and structure a difficult document.

newspapers boy, Adelaide

newspaper boy, Adelaide

The book’s current working title is  The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia and,  at this stage, it is composed of three main sections: Adelaide street images, the Bowden archival project, and pictures  made away from the city–at the beach or on the road.  I have primarily  been working  on the first two sections and these are  looking okay.  Continue Reading…

architecture, film, topographics, urban

Fleurieuscapes: Outtake 2

January 4, 2016

This image is an outtake from the 15 images that have been selected for my  forthcoming Fleurieuscapes exhibition  at  the Magpie Springs Gallery in January 2016.  A previous outtake from the exhibition can be seen on this post on the Encounter Studio blog.

Elephants trunk, Victor Harbor

Elephants trunk, Victor Harbor

Although I was quite partial to it, my  friends who were kindly acting as  de facto curators  for the exhibition rejected it. I am sentimentally attached to the image as my architectural representations of Victor Harbor are few and far between.   There isn’t that much to work with in this coastal  township, architecturally speaking,  and I thought it was a good way to explore the people, place, space theme of the exhibition.  Continue Reading…