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urban

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, colour, critical writing

State of Hope: a review

April 8, 2017

The latest issue of  the Griffith Review is  no 55,  is called State of Hope and it is about contemporary South Australia.  It is edited by Julianne Schultz and Patrick Allington    and the issue consists of  short essays and memoir, fiction pieces and poetry, and photo stories.  Authors include Robyn Archer, John Spoehr, Peter Stanley, Angela Woollacott, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Chris Wallace, Dennis Atkins, Nicholas Jose, and Ali Cobby Eckermann. This is an Adelaide and South Australia as primarily  seen by those working within a literary culture that includes print journalists in the mainstream media (i.e. Murdoch’s Advertiser no less).

The Griffith Review is a  leading literary magazine in Australia that  sees itself as a “high quality, agenda-setting, quarterly publication, delivering insight into the issues that matter most in a timely, authoritative and engaging fashion”. Griffith  Review peer reviews the submissions  to its various issues and  nearly all of  the members of the expert panel academics in universities in the eastern states. Previous issues have been  devoted to Tasmania and Queensland.

What is presented in these texts is the public role of writers as public intellectuals. Writers, it seems,  have a role to  to challenge and arouse the nation–ie., to speak truth to power— given the pressures of  the new media technologies and the forces of globalisation on Australia’s  literary culture—and, thankfully,  the old split between between academe,  creative writer and critic  is absent.

The  market blurb to the  State of Hope text says that:

As the industrial model that shaped twentieth-century South Australia is replaced by an uncertain future, now more than ever the state needs to draw on the strengths of its past in order to move ahead. Now, on the cusp of change, the state needs to draw on its talent for experiment and innovation in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. State of Hope explores the economic, social, environmental and cultural challenges facing South Australia, and the possibilities of renewal and revitalisation.

This is a reasonable assessment.  South Australia is undergoing extensive de-industrialization that began in the 1970s and an uncertain  post-industrial  future does  loom. However,  South Australia is not alone in this–eg.,  witness Victoria. The process of de-industrialization  and an uncertain future also applies to Australia as a whole after the mining boom.   I also concur that the big shift to renewable energy in South Australia,  as  noted by some contributors,  is an indication of  the shape of a new future for the state.

One characteristic of State of Hope  that  I found   surprising was  the heavy doses of nostalgia with respect to the subjective memoirs of childhood and  youth remembered in Adelaide  in many of the literary contributions. This  nostalgia about the good times in South Australia’s past—-eg.,  when South Australia under Don Dustan could claim to lead the nation in politics, culture and civic virtue— does not engage with  the  contemporary revitalisation of urban life in the CBD.

construction, Franklin St, 2011

Contemporary Adelaide, which  is undergoing rapid change–not just decline– is overlooked  by the looking backwards to the golden days of cheerful,  suburban life in the 1960s and 1970s.  That is 40-50 years ago.  So what about now—everyday urban life in contemporary Adelaide?  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…

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…

colour, Melbourne, urban

flying into Melbourne

December 27, 2015

This picture  of Melbourne from a Qantas plane  was made whilst we were returning to Australia from our brief trip to Wellington and the Tongariro National Park in  New Zealand. It was early morning when we flew in. We only made our connecting flight to Adelaide with minutes to spare.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne, Victoria

It was only a couple of years ago that I  used to do these kind of diary snaps with a 35m film Leica (M series).  I admired the Leica ethos –that reality should be fixed on film with lenses that faithfully capture what is in front of the camera. The final print  is the work of the photographer,  and if the result was not as hoped for,  then the photographer takes the blame, not the camera.

However, for 35mm photography I’ve  made the switch to digital photography. These days I use  a Sony digital camera (an old  NEX-7) with  Leica M lenses. The reason  for the switch is that digital imagery delivers superior results when used handheld in most practical situations. The transition from film to digital technology is  still a transit stage  probably to digital imagery on and off the internet.

The drive of the  photographic industry to produce successor models for every camera  (including smart phones) with ever-shorter product cycles,  there is an  eager acceptance of consumers/photographers  to upgrade to the newest model, and the photographer is becoming more and more of a computer technician.   The search is for the perfect camera,  and often  it is the  technology  (cameras are  effectively computer devices for image capture) that drives the  photography. Newer models supposedly means  better model. However, you  cannot tell from the pictures that  the newest digital camera  is the best ever, since  the pictures   are more or less  indistinguishable from those from the  previous model.    Continue Reading…