coastal, film, history, landscape

a road trip with an 8×10

March 29, 2016

I am  planning a  large-format road trip  to the Coorong where I will work  with the 8×10 Cambo monorail,  black and white film, and one 300mm  normal lens.  I will also have a 5×4  field camera  with me to use with colour film and for when I am walking through the wetlands. The photo trip  is to build material for  the second part of  the Edgelands project.

I will attend a workshop at Meningie run by the Centre  for Culture, Land and Sea on the ecological state of the River Murray  and Coorong on Sunday 3rd April. I will then drive to, and  base myself at Salt Greek for  3 days.  The work  from this roadtrip will be part of a group exhibition at the South Coast Regional Arts Centre (in the historic Old Goolwa Police Station building).    The exhibition is a part of the Alexandrina Council’s  2016 ‘Just Add Water’ program.

melaleuca, Coorong

melaleuca, Coorong

Before you think a road trip with an 8×10 monorail   is crazy,  here is  a precedent from the 1980s:  then Doug Spowart (using a  Sinar P 8×10) and Maris Rusis (he was Queensland’s only committed 10×8 image-making practitioner at the time)  did a road trip from Brisbane to Canberra, Kosciuszko and Suggan Buggan in the late 1980’s with 8×10 monorails. In his comments  about  this trip Doug says that:

On this journey we shared cheap motels and backpackers, red wine and erudite conversation. Loading large format film holders in the cramped spaces of motel wardrobes and borrowed darkrooms we ventured into the high country and along roadsides. Photographing in the field was in part an endurance in the sweltering heat of mid-summer’s noon-day sun under the focussing cloth, and the privations of only being able to make 6-8 photographs a day – but each image was unique… a triumphant moment… a personal vision of light.

He says that this body of work was done in Australian light and of Australian subjects far removed from the well-trodden ground of the American tradition. Spowart and Rusis referenced the American work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston   Minor White, Emmet Gowan and others held in the National Gallery of Australia. His judgment was that   what he and Rusis were achieving technically and conceptually matched anything that they  saw in the gallery’s collection. Rusis has continued with large photography (eg., his fabulous  distorted snow gums series) and some of his  work  from this trip was exhibited at FotoFrenzy Gallery in 2014. Spowart, in contrast,  appears to have given up large format photography (in the 1990s)  and very little  of his work  from this trip is online.

There has been a cultural shift  between then and now, namely,  we do not have to worry about the Americans, in the sense of comparing ourselves to them,  or using them as a reference point, or being anxious about  the masters  sitting on our shoulder and casting a long shadow in front of us.   What appeared to be universal then–photography per se—  is now recognised to be regional at a particular time—American modernist photography—  and  it has little relevance to photographing  in the Coorong from an ecological perspective.

Salt Creek, Coorong

Salt Creek, Coorong

My work takes its bearings  from  what I’ve already scoped from a previous visit,  and from the insights gained from the scientists at the Meningie workshop about the ecological sustainability of the lower lakes and Coorong.

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