architecture, colour, digital, roadtrip, topographics

roadtrip to Wallaroo

April 18, 2016

The second step in the roadtrip with an 8×10 has just taken place. It was to Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula. On this occasion I   built on the first roadtrip to the Coorong by  camping instead of renting a house and linking up with Gilbert Roe, a fellow photographers from Adelaide, instead of being on my own.  He is the only photographer that I know in Adelaide who is interested in exploring South Australia, doing road trips,  camping and photographing.

Although I digitally scoped  some agricultural landscapes of the Yorke Peninsula, and the  older style  beach shacks at Wallaroo’s North Beach   the large format photography on this roadtrip was centred around  the Vittera silos at Wallaroo:

silo, Wallaroo

silo, Wallaroo

I’ve been searching for historical precedents for Australian photographers doing roadtrips along the lines of Americans such as Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and  Joel Sternfeld who extended  the tradition of chronicling roadside America that was initiated by Walker Evans in the 1930s.

Even though the roadtrip is meant to be the quintessential Australian journey, apart from EO Hoppe, who made an extended photographic tour of Australia in 1930,  I’ve only come up with a few  names so far:  Frank Hurley, Wes Stacey, Mickey AllenTim Handfield, Trent Parke and Narelle Auto. Judging from The Road: photographers on the move 1970-1985  exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art in 2014 photographers such as John Gollings,  Virgina Coventry and Ian North photographed specific places–eg., Surfers Paradise in 1973-4 for Gollings,  Moe,  Victoria for Coventry and Canberra in 1980-81 for North–rather than being on a  roadtrip in the above American sense.

What is beginning to emerge from the two road trips  undertaken so far is a desire to become acquainted with or get to know regional South Australia.  What is actually there? What is actually happening there? How have things changed? For instance,  when I visited Wallaroo  in  the 1970s it was a depressed railroad town,   copper was in the mythical past, and wheat was keeping the rural  town afloat. Now a large marina and its holiday homes is driving change and transforming Wallaroo into a tourist town.

Whilst scoping  for future photography on the Yorke Peninsula I had in the back of my mind the South Australian  19th century collodion wet plate photographers with their elevated views and panoramic vistas.

silos, Ardrossan

silos, Ardrossan

The  19th century collodion wet plate photographers had visited Wallaroo  especially those  by Captain Samuel Sweet e.g.,  this one,  this one and this one.   These were  made with a  full plate (8×10)  camera in the early 1870s when the colonial regional economy was based on agriculture (wheat and wool) and copper mining and smelting, and  producing raw materials for the British Empire.  The views of Wallaroo were made whilst Sweet was the captain of the Wallaroo and making routine trips shipping coal from Newcastle to Wallaroo (circa 1872-75)

They are unusual as Sweet avoided the grimy mining scenes,  and they were made prior to Sweet’s prolific photographic period between 1875 and 1886. He  became a full time commercial photographer in 1875 and was able to make  a living from views photography— commercial works  (views trade) for a commercial market– that  signified  modernity’s hopes and promises. Sweet’s  positive images  in and around Darwin during 1969-71 and the period  between 1875 and 1886 highlight  the way that colonisation in South Australia was bringing order and prosperity to the developing colony, which was  experiencing a boom time. Sweet was  primarily an outdoor photographer who was focused on  representing progress: namely the process of the emergence of modernity and the establishment of civilisation (an advanced society based on agriculture and urbanisation) in South Australia.

Sweet created a picture of colonial South Australia and enabled the colony to establish its sense of identity as progressive modern and prosperous.

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1 Comment

  • Reply photo camp at Wallaroo - Thought FactoryThought Factory August 14, 2017 at 9:26 am

    […] 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 would not work  for  the Mallee Routes […]

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