As mentioned in the previous post we traveled by train whilst in Japan. Consequently, we spent time in train stations whilst in Tokyo and traveling to Morioka and Osaka from Tokyo. The train stations provided me with limited opportunities to make some photos within a loose reference to, and understanding of, the tradition of Japanese street photography.
This photo below was made whilst we were on the circular JRYamanote Line from Shinjuku to Tokyo Station. We were on our way to catch the Tohoku Shinkansen to the city of Morioka in the Iwate Prefecture located in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan.
I say a loose understanding since the Japanese tradition of classic postwar street photography (sunappu shotto) is usually characterized as a snapshot made with a handheld 35mm camera; black and white film; an ethos of candid spontaneous images; a style favouring rough, blurred, and out of focus images; high contrast tonality; a naive persona of the photographer as a hunter on the streets and photographic truth as evidence of reality. The subject matter of are-bure-bok (grainy, blurry, and out-of-focus) has its roots in the mass devastation of war in the form of a shattered, dislocated, military occupied country, which was initially pictured by Ken Domon and Tadahiko Hayashi, was often of Shinjuku’s dark alleyways (eg., Golden Gai) the bar areas of large cities, urban streets and railway stations and US military bases.
The work of the two main post-war groups — VIVO and Provoke — was surveyed and exhibited by John Szarkowski at Museum of Modern Art’s New Japanese Photography exhibition in New York in 1974. It concentrated on the men photographers in the 1960s. Though some photographers such as Ishiuchi Miyako’s 1977 Yokosuka Story, Tatsuo Suzuki, Takashi Hamaguchi and Kitai Kazuo continued to work within this classic black and white tradition, the orthodox understanding of street photography was questioned in the 1990s including its general disregard the images of women photographers as girl photos. With female street photographers (such as, Kawauchi Rinko, Mikko Hara and Ume Kayo), the tradition broadened, became more reflexive and critical of its classical assumptions about realism, objectivity, experience, gender and subjectivity.
We have a small space downstairs that’s a storeroom, even though I had thought that I could set it up as a studio space. In this space sits a Cambo studio stand, a 8×10 Sinar P monorail and two background poles that I’d purchased in the 1980s, a fridge for film and dog food, two filing cabinets and a camera trunk for a large format camera. But the photography has not happened, and the studio space has become a storeroom by default. Every time I go into the storeroom I become depressed looking at all that camera gear just sitting there waiting to be used. I keep asking myself: how can I use this setup.
The photography has not happened for several reasons. The studio space only has a small side window and so the exposures are more than 1-2 minutes during the summer months when the afternoon light comes into the room. It is is filtered through the bushes in the garden outside the window and when it is cloudy the exposures are around 4 minutes. During winter the studio is quite dark, and though I did consider some studio lights, I didn’t really want to go down that pathway, or spend money on that kind of equipment. Secondly, though I considered doing still life photography, and experimented a bit, I wasn’t all that interested in that photographic genre. So nothing happened.
Then I came across the above archival portrait of Suzanne that had been made in the large downstairs room with its big window just after we had moved from Adelaide to Encounter Bay on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I started thinking: well, why not portraits? Why not use the potential studio space to photograph our friends? I then remembered that I had initially rejected the studio portrait option as I’d thought that the 2 minute plus minimum exposures would be too long for people to pose.
Then I realised that long exposures incorporate time and the inevitable bodily movement of the sitter during that exposure is a representation of time. The tracing of movement through an extended exposure time is quite distinct from that produced by a series of instantaneous photographs. So why not turn what I’d initially thought to be as a negative into a positive?
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…
My energies in the last month or so of 2016 have been directed in starting to put material –images and text—together for the photo-book that I have started working on. It is a form of memory work as it is an active seeking out and an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the past. The book is situated in the nexus of photography, archive and memory and it is a working through of personal and collective memory based on my photographic archive.
The first stage is going through the 1980s photography archive, selecting negatives from the contact sheets, scanning the selected images, and then digging around the internet for text to act as a commentary on this decade in Adelaide. The assembled material goes into a post on an old wordpress blog, which acts as a repository of selected material that I can then rework into an initial digital draft using InDesign. Or probably Scrivener, before I turn to InDesign, as I do need a word processor and project management tool that would allow me to compose and structure a difficult document.
newspaper boy, Adelaide
The book’s current working title is The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia and, at this stage, it is composed of three main sections: Adelaide street images, the Bowden archival project, and pictures made away from the city–at the beach or on the road. I have primarily been working on the first two sections and these are looking okay. Continue Reading…
The three exhibitions that I have been involved in —Weltraum, Abstractions x5 and Mallee Routes— are over.
Tomorrow morning I drive to Mildura via the Mallee Highway to link up with Judith Crispin and friends who are travelling from Sydney to Lajamanu in the North Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory of Australia. It will take us approximately 3 days to get to Lajamanu via Alice Springs from Mildura.We will travel on the Goyder Highway to Port Augusta, and then on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs. I haven’t been on the Woomera –Alice Springs section of the Stuart Highway before, so this is new terrain for me.
In Alice Springs we will meet up with other photographers–Juno Gemes and Helga Leunig–and a poet–Dave Musgrave, who runs Puncher and Wattmann, an independent Australian publishing house that publishes Australian poetry and literary fiction. The third day is then spent traveling in two 4 wheel drive vehicles on the Tanami Road to the turnoff to Lajamanu, then along the Lajamanu track to the community based on the eastern side of Hooker Creek. There is some background on Lajamanu here and here.
on the road
We are going to see the Milpirri Festival, which is presented by the Warlpiri people at Lajamanu in association with the Tracks Dance Company. For one night only, every two years, Milpirri brings the whole Lajamanu community together in a theatrical performance in Lajamanu itself. Milpirri began in 2005 and it is based upon a twenty-seven-year relationship between Tracks Dance Company and Lajamanu community that began in 1988.
Milpirri challenges the narrative of the Australian nation state that Indigenous societies embrace modernity (‘Close the Gap’) by leaving their homelands to gainfully ‘participate’ in the nation. In this narrative the ‘remote’ is increasingly figured as disadvantageous, as well as unhealthy, for sustainable and productive lives to take shape. The conservatives say that these remote communities need to be, and should be, shut down. The conservative’s default position is assimilation.Continue Reading…