I have spent some time in the last week or so contacting people to invite them to participate in the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book that is to be produced by Adam Dutkiewicz and myself for Moon Arrow Press. This book builds on, or is a development from, the Abstract Photography book that we published in 2016, which recovered what was left of the abstract modernist work produced in the 1960s. These are companion volumes so to speak.
The result to the initial email that has been sent out has been positive, in that the people who have been contacted so far have all said yes. Several others are rather slow in responding to that email. However, the main problem that I have encountered at this stage has been finding the contact details for some of the names of the relevant people that have mentioned. As a result some people who made art photographs during that period will not be included. They disappear from our visual history.
Harts Mill, Port Adelaide
Adelaide Photography 1970-2000
is designed to fill in one of the many gaps of the national histories
of art photography in Australia that leave out Adelaide. This gap, silence or absence gives the wrong impression, as it implies that nothing of interest happened in South Australia in art photography during the last quarter of the 20th century. The inference is that South Australia is just a fly over state, and if any photographic work happened during this period, it is provincial, and so of little interest with respect to the national canon. Hence the idea of alternate histories–namely a rethinking of Australian photographic history that questions our understanding and interpretation of the past.
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.
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…
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 Parke, Narelle 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…
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.
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.