Walking/photography

Work in Progress
sunrise, Rosetta Head

The Walking/Photography exhibition explores the interrelationships between these two modes of being-in-the-world. The ethos is to go for a walk in the world, where you can find what you don’t know you are looking for. It is a step into the photographic unknown and an uncovering of the forgotten or buried history of the area.

The exhibition is part of South Australia’s SALA Festival in August 2020. The two photographers are Stuart Murdoch and Gary Sauer-Thompson. Stuart’s photography emerges from his walking along the Kororoit Creek in Sunshine, Melbourne Victoria and around Sunshine itself. Gary’s photography emerges from his poodlewalks in Waitpinga and Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.

There is some contextual background on this theme of walking/photography in Interartive’s Walking Art/Walking Aesthetics and the Walking Artist’s Network.

“If you undertake a walk, you are echoing the whole history of mankind, from the early migrations out of Africa on foot that took people all over the world. Despite the many traditions of walking—the landscape walker, the walking poet, the pilgrim—it is always possible to walk in different ways.” Richard Long.

The literature on the act of walking highlights the different historical forms or styles of walking–rambling, bushwalking, tramping, cruising, marching, strolling, guiding and promenading. From this emerges the philosophical aspects of walking and the tradition of walking. In his Psychogeography Merlin Coverley describes the diverse strands in this tradition: the literary London of  Daniel Defoe, William Blake,  Thomas de Quincey and Robert Louis Stevenson,   which explored the role of the imagination and the power of dreams to transmute the familiar nature of our surroundings into a dreamscape that is  strange, wonderful and nightmarish;   the political urban wanderings with their subjective realm of human emotion in the Paris of Walter Benjamin, Surrealists and Situationists;  and  Iain Sinclair’s explorations of the mystery beneath the apparently banal surfaces of the everyday world of Thatcherite London.   

A well known photographer who combined photography and walking is the late Fay Goodwin in the UK. Women who walked in the city and also photographed– a flâneuse – would include Vivian Mair and Helen Levitt. A text that combines photographs and walking is W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, which  is, in part, an account of a walk through Suffolk, England.  

Two contemporary but different exponents in Australia of walking and photographing are David Tatnall and David  Wadelton in Melbourne. A different perspective on combining photography and walking comes from those who  spend weeks or months walking and camping and making photographs, such the late Peter  Dombrovskis. Contemporary wilderness photographers— such as Chris Bell and Rob Blakers in Tasmania and Mark Darragh— build on this approach.

Aboriginal fish trap, Kings Beach, Waitpinga

These different forms of ‘photographic walking’ can lead to  the re-enchantment of nature, recovering the lost  old voices in the landscape, exploring the ancient walking paths, becoming aware of the  spectres haunting the landscape, the significance of natural beauty and recovering the forgotten history of the bio-region or the urban suburb.

References

Solnit, Rebecca,   Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Penguin, New York, 2000

 Evans David , The Art of Walking: A Field Guide,  Black Dog Publishing, London, 2013 

O’Rourke KarenWalking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers, MIT Press, 2013 

 Gros, Frédéric, A Philosophy of Walking, Verso, London, 2014

De Certeau, Michel,  The Practice of Everyday Life,  University of California, Berkeley CA, 1988

Smith, Phil,  Walking’s New MovemenT:Opportunities, Decelerations and Beautiful Obstacles in the Performances, Politics, Philosophies and Spaces of Contemporary Radical Walking, Triarchy Press, 2015

Smith PhilRethinking Mythogeography,  (John Schott photography) and (Phil Smith text), Triarchy Press, 2018

Vergunst, Jo Lee,  and  Ingold, Tim,  (eds.),Ways of Walking: Ethnography and Practice on FootRoutledge, London, 2008

While there is a long well-documented tradition of poets walking and writing about the landscape, for at least the past fifty years visual artists have been laying out walks as various kinds of artwork. In contrast to the many site-based poets, the visual artists didn’t settle into the place, but documented the results of their work with photographs and notes, with which they returned to their urban homes and art dealers. In the visual art tradition three fields of practice– cartography, art, and walking – interlock.

It can be argued that the walking arts emerged in retrograde reaction against the forms of abstraction and pervasive technical instrumentation present in contemporary cartography. Walking and mapping in engaging the body subvert a more conventional scientific understanding of cartography. Like walking, mapping is an embodied experience carried out from a particular point of view 

Heysen Trail, Waitpinga

 Australia  has a large number of great walks including the Heysen Trail in South Australia.

Walking and mapping (star maps) is traditionally associated with the Aboriginal people’s songlines. They used the stars as a representation of the route to be followed, with certain stars representing features along the route and for memorising of the route. Territory for Australia’s first peoples is not a piece of land enclosed within borders, but ‘an interlocking network of ‘lines’ or ‘ways through’ that enables them to navigate their trading and ceremonial routes, or find the chain of way points (tiny water holes in the desert) that allows them to live in, navigate, and travel long distances, including through the desert ( eg., the Simpson or Nullarbor) safely.

The songlines or dreaming tracks also  explain the laws by which the desert people have lived, and the origins of  this country. A songline is based around the creator beings and their formation of the lands and waters during the Dreaming (creation of earth). It explains the landmarks, rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees, sky and seas.The map is an abstracted typography of history, cosmology, lived experience and geography.

Many of the routes shared through songlines became the routes and roads of colonisers and then the modern highways and roads across Australia. The route across the Nullarbor between Perth and Adelaide, for instance, came from songlines. Other examples include the  Great Western Highway in NSW and the Victoria Highway in the NT. What the British colonialists/settlers deemed to be wilderness (pristine, untouched nature) was already walked and humanised by Aboriginal people.

References

Kerwin, Dale Wayne, Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes: The Colonisation of the Australian Economic Landscape, Sussex Academic Press, Sussex, 2012.

Clarke, Philip A, Where the Ancestors Walked: Australia as an Aboriginal Landscape, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2003.

Gary Sauer-Thompson is a photographer and blogger based in Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. Gary  has an M.Com in economics (Canterbury University, New Zealand), studied photography at the Photography Images College in South Melbourne, and has a PhD in Philosophy (from Flinders University of South Australia). He has published a number of books and he exhibits regularly. He has worked as an economist, a tramways conductor, an academic, and a political and policy advisor.

Wellington, New Zealand, 2020 photo by Sally Jackman

Gary left full-time paid work in Canberra in 2011 to become a independent photographer. He runs the poodlewalks and Mallee Routes websites, which explore different approaches to contemporary photography.

A substantial part of Gary’s photography emerges from his walking with the standard poodles. Currently the poodles are Kayla:

The exhibition photos emerge out of disrupted poodlewalks. These walks are disrupted in the sense that the walking breaks from the everyday and functional walks that many people do for exercise or pleasure along the coastal paths in Waitpinga. Walking with the poodles breaks down into spending time mooching around, making photos in specific locations, and/or waiting for the right kind of light.  

still life, Petrel Cove

The exhibition photos arise from a drift photography that curls and folds back on itself. Linear narratives fail to adequately convey the experience of walking along a coastline that constitutes a border between wild nature and settlement. A photography that is fragmented, non-linear, impressionistic and contingent is better suited to the experience of walking than traditional linear narratives.

Walking the coastal territory in Waitpinga helps us to understand our country. If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, then we must begin to understand, then care for, our country.

Sunshine’s history is steeped in an industrial past. From the obscure to the toxic Sunshine has been host to many industries. Like any other suburb it has also seen its share of boom and bust. It is currently however undergoing rapid gentrification.

Located in the geographical heart of Melbourne’s western region, Sunshine was first established as the settlement of Braybrook Junction during the 1880s land boom. The rail junction, created in 1884 when a branch line to Ballarat was built from the main Melbourne-Bendigo line, attracted immediate attention from city land speculators and industrialists, and the first land sales were held in 1886. Early manufacturing industries included Albion Quarries (1885), the Braybrook Implement Co., makers of stump jump ploughs (1880), Wright & Edwards, manufacturers of railway rolling stock (1889), and a smelter and fireworks factory (1893).(1)

Sunshine’s early days were typical of European settlement in the early industrial era. Companies that made porcelain insulators, or used horse hair as a raw material for other products flourished here. The largest manufacturer however was for many years Sunshine Harvesters. H.V. McKay was the founder of Sunshine Harvesters and he brought his company to the then ‘Braybrook Junction’ from Ballarat. This influenced the growth and planning of the city for many years. Remnants of his input can still be seen in the HV McKay Memorial Gardens along side the names of many streets that reflect Sunshine’s early industrial past. Other large companies that operated here until the late 1980s and mid 1990s were Ajax Fasteners, ICI, and Spalding to name just a few. Of course now in the 21st century that number has reduced significantly. The most recent closure being the Huntsman site on the eastern edge of Sunshine in Braybrook.

Sunshine’s history is steeped in a Industrial past. From the obscure to the toxic Sunshine has been host to many industries. Like any other suburb it has also seen its share of boom and bust. It is currently however undergoing rapid gentrification.

silo at dusk

Located in the geographical heart of Melbourne’s western region, Sunshine was first established as the settlement of Braybrook Junction during the 1880s land boom. The rail junction, created in 1884 when a branch line to Ballarat was built from the main Melbourne-Bendigo line, attracted immediate attention from city land speculators and industrialists, and the first land sales were held in 1886. Early manufacturing industries included Albion Quarries (1885), the Braybrook Implement Co., makers of stump jump ploughs (1880), Wright & Edwards, manufacturers of railway rolling stock (1889), and a smelter and fireworks factory (1893).(1)

Sunshine’s early days were typical of European settlement in the early industrial era. Companies that made porcelain insulators, or used horse hair as a raw material for other products flourished here. The largest manufacturer however was for many years Sunshine Harvesters. H.V. McKay was the founder of Sunshine Harvesters and he brought his company to the then ‘Braybrook Junction’ from Ballarat. This influenced the growth and planning of the city for many years. Remnants of his input can still be seen in the HV McKay Memorial Gardens along side the names of many streets that reflect Sunshine’s early industrial past. Other large companies that operated here until the late 1980s and mid 1990s were Ajax Fasteners, ICI, and Spalding to name just a few. Of course now in the 21st century that number has reduced significantly. The most recent closure being the Huntsman site on the eastern edge of Sunshine in Braybrook.

Sunshine is proud of its Industrial heritage. There a still pockets of small to medium sized factories in the area. There are informational plaques scattered throughout the suburb. The plagues mention not only Sunshine’s Industrial past but it’s Aboriginal heritage as well. I have lived here in Sunshine since 2000.

Kororoit Creek

Kororoit creek forms an integral part of the history of Sunshine. Both Pre-European and Industrial. The traditional custodians of the land surrounding the creek are the Wurundjeri people who had hunted, fished and camped along the creek for thousands of years. Aboriginal occupation is evident in the form of scattered artefacts along the creek. Scar trees, where canoes were carved from the bark of the red gums, are dotted along the creek It was a valuable food source for the local Aborigines and a source of recreation and entertainment for the locals until after the second world war (2).

Kororoit Creek

After European settlement the creek became the major source of recreation , particularly for young boys. Swimming in the waterholes was hazardous, and a swimming and life saving club was formed in the early 1920s. Famed Olympic swimmer, Frank Beaurepaire, at times trained in one of the water holes. In the recession of 1929-31, better facilities were established at this pool under the direction of local architect, Raymond Robinson. Many local men who were unemployed gave voluntary service for the work. Concrete dressing sheds, a learners’ pool were erected, and the surrounds were landscaped. The creek became polluted during the second world war and the pool fell into disuse.

The creek now is a renewed source of recreation. There a playgrounds and walking and cycling paths along its length from Ballarat road to the Westgate freeway. These walking trails are a source of photographic inspiration for me. The creek snakes though both industrial locations and quiet suburban streets. There is a major rail corridor that pass over it and it runs under both the M80 freeway and the Westgate freeway.

References

  1. http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01448b.htm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kororoit_Creek

I was born in the early nineteen sixties, too late to be a baby boomer, too early to be a Gen X’er. I sometimes wonder if this has been a compelling force behind my creative impulses.

I tried a variety of jobs, in many fields, after school. Cab driving seemed to be the catharsis.After eighteen months of driving. I decided then to return to school to finish my high school education, with a focus on photography. Two years of studying helped me produce a folio. I then gained entry to one of the Melbourne’s prestigious undergraduate photography courses.

I completed my undergaduate degree. Then gained some casual work in a photography college as a technician. This also exposed me to the idea of teaching. This pays even better than cab driving but has only slightly less hours involved. The next logical choice then seemed to be make teaching a career.

Stuart in darkroom with his Hasselblad

Back to school again to gain a formal teaching qualification. Then into the education system to teach photography. In the interim I had a couple of solo exhibitions in artist run initiatives. I also exhibited in many group exhibitions.

My early career in the fine arts began by making fine silver gelatin prints. Currently I focus on any and all forms of image construction. I use any photographic device at hand. I completed an M.A. in 2002. The project compared silver gelatin prints, and inkjet technologies of the era.

These days my list of chosen tools includes, black and white film of all formats from 35mm to 54 inches. I use Colour film, digital and toy cameras. I have been toying with mobile phone cameras since they appeared on the market. I upload a lot of my images to flickr, as well as tumblr. Each of these spaces is an ongoing series of experimental online permanent exhibitions. I also make photobooks.

My photography has always been personal. I have used cameras in a manner that allowed me to wander and consider the environment I found myself in. To contemplate my relationship to it and wonder if a silver gelatin print could convey some of the wonder I that I saw? Before moving to Sunshine I worked and indeed walked in the incongruous parts of Melbourne. Places like creek beds, that occasionally flooded. On the edges of construction sites of major infrastructure sites. Anywhere where the evidence the ‘constructed’ appeared at loggerheads with the natural.

When I moved to Sunshine, digital photography at the time was still in its infancy. Twenty megapixel sensor DSLRs were still prohibitively expensive. I was predominately using film. I still use film today, predominantly black and white. I still make my own prints. Many of these pictures were of anything and everything that caught my eye in Sunshine when I walked my new suburb. Indeed anywhere I wandered.

My interest in photographing Sunshine is three fold: geographical, metaphorical, autobiographical.

I wander the pockets of incongruous land dotted around the suburb attempting to make pictures that transcend their ordinariness. I record the changes occurring, that imply my relationship to the landscape and my culture.

hand

I’m also interested in the resilience of nature. The pandemic saw many aspects of the environment rejuvenate as the movement of people was decreased. I have yet to see this manifest in the pockets of green scattered throughout Sunshine. That is not say that there has been no change. Flicking though my archives both digital and analogue may help answer that question. When I walk along the Kororoit creek trail I see the evidence of flash flooding in the piles of detritus left behind, both manmade and natural. The evidence left behind proves the forces of nature are still to be reckoned with. While our neglect of our environment is well understood and often debated the high water marks left along the creek are a kind of exclamation point to how nature still behaves.

Given that the pandemic started in the southern hemisphere’s spring there hasn’t been as many flash flooding events as has happened in the past. The drought of 20002010 saw several of these events. It was during these events I became motivated to record what was occurring along the stretch of creek within walking distance of my home. Walking though for me is primarily one of exploration and discovery. The local council rehabilitate the creek in many places. There is a local group dedicated its restoration as well. This group I once encountered while walking with a friend along the creek. They were planting unofficially and without sanction native and indigenous trees to help the space rejuvenate. They were called the Friends Of The Lower Kororoit Creek. There are two such groups operating along the creek, the other is The Friends Of Kororoit Creek.

Kororoit creek forms a large part of my walking and exploration. It meanders for several kilometres through Sunshine and I am able to access it easily on foot even with heavy analogue camera equipment. The creek can be peaceful. A great place to wander and reflect. It is often used by all kinds of people from illegal off road motorbike riding to jogging or just walking. I usually wander though with my cameras. Looking for changes since last walking through and watching the light.

Most of the regeneration of the creek through Sunshine had happened by the time I arrived in 2000. I can easily imagine how it may have looked prior to this. The creek occasionally floods. I have made pictures of the end result. The flooding serves as a kind of expunging. Litter and detritus are pushed up the banks a sad indictment of our treatment of our environment. A metaphorical reflection on my own state of mind perhaps? Walking on a weekday in these areas provides a strange kind of introspection. You can be surrounded by dense re-vegetation and small to medium industry and hear nothing but birdsong. My connection to the suburb goes as far back as my late teens. I was employed by Ajax Fasteners and served the first year of my Apprenticeship there. That site is now a homewares and furniture centre, with a restaurant.

So wandering and exploring often bears strange fruits, with the occasional memory of earlier days spent there. The Massey Ferguson factory, formerly the Sunshine Harvester Works, still operated in the late 1970s to 1980s and I remember it well. It is now a major shopping complex. It houses a large supermarket, 1 large retail chain and numerous small shops as well as a Village Cinema complex. Its unique claim to fame is a fibreglass sculpture that was commissioned by Village Cinemas in the early to mid 1990s, called the Millennium Man 1. It was meant to last five years. It is about to be removed as a safety hazard, more than 20 years later.

The features of Sunshine that draw me are the creek predominately with its walking and cycling path. The pockets of 20th century small to medium industry that remain. The multicultural shopping centre with influences from Asia and Africa.. I hope I can create a useful archive for future research on the state of Sunshine the suburb, now and into the future.

References

1. https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/campaign-to-restore-millennium- man-statue-in-sunshine/news-story/68849127df637d5e8fbc407f76f9d1c9

Experimenting with video

1. Waitpinga #1, Kings Beach, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

2. Waitpinga #2, Kings Head, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

3. Kongkengguwar (Rosetta Head) #1 Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

4. Sunshine #1 Melbourne, Victoria

Sony a7R111
Kayla, Rosetta Head

and Maleko:

Sony A7 R111
Maleko, Kings Head, Waitpinga

The poodlewalks are twice a day: in the morning with Kayla and in the afternoon with Maleko. Suzanne and I swap around.

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