I have recently become involved in a new project entitled Our-Waters, which is about the River Murray and the photographic archives of the Godson Collection held by the State Library of South Australia. Some background to the project is here on my Our Waters Our Country blog, which, for now, is loosely associated with the Our Waters project.
As it is still early days in the project, it has no public profile (ie., there is no website) to inform people what is happening. However, a recent update on the state of play of the Our Waters project is on this blog post. This indicates that this photography is not what Rebecca Solnit calls eco-porn: photography that celebrate the ‘untouched beauty’ of nature associated with the nature tourism and calendars that view our land and rivers as a place of wildness and wilderness.
Lake Alexandrina, 2011
It is an opportune time to start such a project given the recent report on the ecological state of the Coorong by the Goyder Institute. The ecological condition of the Coorong has been steadily degrading since European “settlement” due to upstream water extractions, and the Millennium Drought was a major disturbance causing a rapid decline in condition. Whilst the relatively recent increase in natural and managed inflows to the Coorong through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan have improved the ecological condition of the North Lagoon, the ecological condition of the South Lagoon has not recovered, or it has continued to decline. As Mary E. White wrote in her Running Down – Water in a Changing Land (Kangaroo Press, 2000):
The continuing saga of the extraction of massive amounts of water from inland rivers to satisfy the escalating demands of the irrigation industry is Australia’s most serious, and ultimately potentially most disastrous water-related issue. It is a battle between two essentially irreconcilable attitudes to land use.
To speak plainly, the Murray-Darling Basin has been, and is being, managed to benefit the irrigators. Continue Reading…
On my first night camping on the camel trek in the northern Flinders Ranges I experienced a culture shock due to the degraded-landscape around me. Our camp at Bend Well (a water point) was west of Arkaroola and just outside the edge of the northern tip of the Gammon Ranges and I was stunned at just how degraded the ecology of this landscape of this part of the northern Flinders was. It wasn’t the dryness of the landscape that shocked me. This is a semi-arid landscape given the minimal rainfall (roughly around 150mm) that is highly variable and the hot, dry desert climate with cool to cold winters, and the periods of drought.
We were camped on Umberatana Station south of the dingo or dog fence that runs roughly east-west across South Australia. To the south of the fence, dingoes (wild dogs) have been destroyed It is north of the dog fence sheep that grazing is unviable due to dingo predation. The main grazing pressure south of the dog fence is from sheep, a few cattle and unknown number of rabbits and kangaroos.
trough, Bend Well, Umberatana Station
What really shocked me was the condition of the land—the ecological devastation–that had been caused by the long history over stocking by the pastoralists, drought and the plagues of rabbits since the mid-nineteenth century with little signs of contemporary landcare. I couldn’t help but notice the loss of vegetation and the subsequent destruction of the soil surface. This is certainly a human altered landscape that had been changed by the pastoral industry.
I appreciate that these pioneer settlers underpinned the general prosperity of South Australia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries since the various attempts at mining in the Flinders Ranges usually fizzled out quite quickly. The pastoralists also opened up the interior of the continent. Continue Reading…
Prior to going on the camel trek to the northern Flinders Ranges I was in Melbourne for a photoshoot about old industrial Melbourne for an upcoming SALA exhibition at Atkins Photo Lab with Stuart Murdoch. We spent a part of Sunday afternoon walking along Kororoit Creek in Sunshine in Melbourne’s west. It was a pleasant afternoon walking for a couple of hours along the creek from Stuart’s place, even though I was suffering from a painful back that I’d damaged just prior to leaving Adelaide for Melbourne.
The creek features in Stuart’s Sunshine project–which is about place, lived experience and memory. Some of his photos made along the Kororoit Creek Trail had been included a recent exhibition he had in 2018. It was interesting walking with a fellow photographer in their own territory.
Kororoit Creek, Sunshine
Though Sunshine is generally regarded as one of the forgotten suburbs of Melbourne’s west, I find it to be a fascinating place, both photographically and sociologically. It is a low-density residential suburb that is close to Melboune’s CBD by rail; the Vietnamese migrants are rapidly changing this suburb from its old industrial and white working class base; it still has plenty of industrial sites; it is earmarked for redevelopment; and there are some well cared for public commons. It is a photographically rich suburb to walk around in. Stuart’s Sunshine project is a making sense of this place that is his home. Continue Reading…
As mentioned here and here I had an opportunity to do some aerial photography in late November along the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula thanks to Chris Dearden and his recreational Sonex motor-glider (a Xenos). We flew from the privately owned Goolwa airport to the mouth of the River Murray, then turned west and flew to Newland Cliffs in Waitpinga, then flew back to Goolwa. This was the first time that I’d done any aerial photography outside of a few snaps on various commercial flights.
I was stunned by the beauty of this part of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coastline from the air. It sure looked very impressive.
Mouth of the River Murray
I just could not resist making a photo of the mouth of the Murray River with the two dredges working full time to keep the mouth of the river open. Water should be flowing through the mouth and into the Coorong, given the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the water buybacks to increase the environmental flows of the river and the dredges not needed.
What we have learned recently is that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is incompetent and that the NSW state government and bureaucracy have been complicit in water theft and meter tampering. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority knew about the theft of water for environmental flows by some irrigators for cotton growing in northern NSW and it did nothing. Same for the Queensland government. There is a long history of state governments in the Murray-Darling Basin turning a blind eye to excessive water extraction by irrigators. Continue Reading…
In starting to work on the Fleuriescapes project once again I can now see that it is more about place and homecoming, with the photographic style more in the form of poeticising. The project is about being at home in this particular place, and it is about exploring what that means through poeticising what is familiar and taken-for granted in our everyday, pre-reflective life.
After we left living in the CBD in Adelaide to shift down to Victor Harbor (ie., sea change) it slowly dawned on us that the southern Fleurieu Peninsula was our home Adelaide is now where we go to do business then leave to return home–it is a world of instrumental value and rushing about. Though we were once comfortably at home in the city’s everydayness and its local neighbourhoods we no longer are at home where we used to live.
We often dip in and out of the consumer society of the city; an urban life that is based on unending economic growth and gaining satisfaction from consumerism. We no longer miss living in the urban world of the city 0f Adelaide, with its coffee shops, entertainment, businesses, art galleries, film labs, corporate universities, people and politics. Our experience of the city is now akin to one of homelessness–a passing away of belonging to a world based on unlimited economic growth.