Browsing Tag

topographics

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 Bernice Abbott’s well known 1930s large format photo project, Changing New York,  is a historical reference point in spite of the truncated nature of the 1939 book.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…

archives, critical writing, Tasmania, topographics

Tasmanian Elegies: antecedents

June 8, 2017

I have been slowly plugging away on the Tasmanian Elegies project. I have  been going through my film archives  and posting selected images on the Tumblr blog. I am up to my  2012 visit,   but I think that there is a gap of 4-5 years before I return to Tasmania on a phototrip. It looks as if the project  is starting to come together and that I will have enough images  to start thinking in terms of  a book for this project  after ‘The Bowden Archives: memory, text, place’    is done and dusted.  This is a project with a long gestation period.

I  will probably  enough images but it is the text that is going cause me trouble. Tasmanian Elegies  is at odds with the  emphasis on landscape photography   in Tasmania,  and that branch of landscape photography known as wilderness photography.I am probably going to have to go to a university library to access, and read  what Roslynn D. Haynes in her   Tasmanian Visions: Landscapes in Writing, Art and Photography (2006) has to say.

water tanks, Mt Lyell Mine, Queenstown

This emphasis on wilderness by Tasmanian photographers is understandable given the large number of wilderness areas  in Tasmania,  the ongoing threat to wilderness  from the mining and timber industries and the environmental movements defence of wilderness in the face of these threats.  Photography has become the chief visual instrument of environmentalists endeavouring to increase an awareness of the natural beauty and sublimity of Tasmania’s wilderness. Wilderness here  is usually  understood as  an unpeopled wilderness. 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…