I have been looking at some recent scans of the seascapes that I made during 2022 with my vintage RolleiflexF TLR. This is a 60 year old camera and so it is no surprise that the elements of its Planar 75m lens that were joined with balsam glue have recently separated. Apparently the issue of lens separation is often associated with the camera having been exposed to high heat situations during its life. It can be repaired through baking the lens to de-glue the elements, but there is a risk of the elements cracking from the baking process. I decided to go ahead with the repair.
The 2022 seascape images that I made with this Rolleiflex TLR looked quite different to what I’d expected. From the traditional perspective of the quality of the image that is produced by a digital camera you could say that these are degraded images and so failures. That is how I saw them when I’d scanned the negatives and then compared them in Lightroom to the digital images made at the same time. I had initially thought that the degraded images resulted from the lens being salt damaged like the Leica M4-P due to by a rogue wave sweeping over me — but it was lens separation not a salt ladened camera.
I put the scans to one side and forgot about them. Some time later I went back and re-looked at Gustave Le Gray’s mid-19th century coastal photography of Normandy and the western coast of the Mediterranean. I concentrated on his seascapes, that were made using the wet-collodion process and from different negatives (one for the sea and another one for the sky) being combined to produce an image that showed both sky and sea in one unified, double-structured picture. He produced an album of sepia brown toned seascapes of albumen prints called Vistas del Mar. These are images from the prehistory of an instantaneous photography, or pictorial instantaneity, which emerged after 1878.
I found these images created by the combination of two different negatives taken at different moments with different exposure times stunning. They also raised the issues of how does photography represent time? How does photography figure the temporal nature of the medium? What kind of philosophy of time, if any, can be found in photography?
Whilst walking for 7 days on the various trails at Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria with the Retire Active SA Bushwalkers group I tried to link walking with photography. It had been 20 years since this group had been to Wilsons Promontory, so it was a big occasion for them. About 65-70 people went and they walked in the 4 different grades of walking in terms distance and difficulty. I was in the C grade to allow myself time to do photography whilst bush walking.
It had been about 10 years since I’d been to Wilsons Promontory and I didn’t remember that much as I was a day tourist then, rather than a bushwalker /photographer We stayed in a farm cottage just outside the park’s entrance and made day trips into the park. I remember going to Tidal River and Squeaky Beach and photographing the rocks along the side of the road up to Mt Oberon.
The inspiration is Eleanor Dark’s bushwalking in the Blue Mountains as well as Manning Clark walking almost every line in his A History of Australia. So is the historian Tom Griffiths, a keen bush walker, who like Clark, is keenly aware that the past is alive and shifting in the present. Their quest for historical understanding helps to inform a contemporary photography.
It is difficult to successfully combine walking and photography with a bushwalking group because their emphasis is on walking, rather than a creative walking art project. So the photography is necessarily limited to digital snaps whilst walking or making photos (digital and film) before and after the daily walks. My photographic emphasis was on the latter.
There has been an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in the northern suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia. These new cases are South Australia’s first without a known source of transmission since April 1 2020–7 months ago.
Known as the Parafields cluster it has been traced back to returned traveller from the UK, to a cleaner, on to two security guards and then into the community. The cleaner worked at a medi-hotel (a quarantine hotel) for Australians returning from overseas, and then transmitted to the cleaner’s extended family, some of whom worked as security guards. The particular strain of this virus is showing no symptoms for people who have become infected; it is highly contagious (it was transmitted from surfaces at the medi-hotel in the city); and the incubation is very short —down to 24 hours.
The state government, in response to this second wave, has instituted a very tough mandatory lockdown of the state at midnight on the 18th of November in an attempt to execute a six day circuit breaker, to get on top of the contact tracing and to get every single person that they can into a quarantine situation as quickly as possible. The lockdown is being used to contain the virus, where as in Europe governments only uses lockdowns when things are out of control
Basically we cannot leave our house for the next 6 days and only one person per household can leave the home once a day to visit the supermarket, or if they are in an emergency, or if their home is unsafe. Face masks are advised when in public but they are not mandatory.
In contrast to previous years I have a minimal presence in the carnivalesque 2019 SALA ( South Australian Living Artists) Festival. This festival can be interpreted as a reworking of Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque as popular festivities and rituals as a form of celebration that has been successfully transposed into the visual arts in South Australia.
I am part of a salon style hang of a multiple medium exhibition at Fabrik in the Adelaide Hills that is entitled Swatch. The curatorial concept behind Swatch is that artists exhibit “a small sample [up to 3 9×9 inches images] that demonstrates the look of a larger piece– artists are asked to consider how they would represent their practice (their style, technique or subject matter) on a small scale.” I understand that as there are approximately 40 artists involved in Swatch, and probably around 120 very diverse works being exhibited, this style of exhibition can be interpreted as a curatorial response to Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque.
The idea of Swatch explicitly references the history of the Fabrik building. The building was once the old Onkaparinga woollen mill at Lobethal, whilst swatch refers to a small textile sample that is usually taken from existing fabric, and is designed to represent a large whole. The textile manufacturer would bring together many swatches of their materials into a single sample book, thereby enabling a salesperson to show a wide selection of available designs in various colours to potential customers without the necessity of having multiple rolls of fabric immediately to hand. So the Swatch exhibition of small works is equivalent to a sample book of many swatches of different materials.
I am exhibiting a series of 3 9×9 inch framed prints that were made on my coastal poodlewalks along the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, and which are a part of the Fleurieuscapes project. The series in Swatch is entitled The Light the Morning Brings’, and it is based on this post on the poodlewalks blog. These images are along the lines of immediate bodily relationship to the light on objects and processes using the lower or popular media of photography, and showing them in the context of the higher and more authoritative media of the visual arts.
One of these prints being exhibited is an image is of a rocky outcrop from a photo session at Kings Head, and it is similar in style to the granite and quartz outcrop picture above.
The Tate exhibition basically re-inserts the history of photography into the well-writ narrative of art history to make a necessary point: – that photography merits serious consideration within the category of abstract art, and that the camera’s attraction to the shape of light rather than the shape of solid form as we perceive it, changed the way images of all kinds were composed. It also suggests that there has been a fruitful dialogue between abstract painting (Miro, Riley, Braque, Mondrian, Pollock, Kandinsky) and photography over the last hundred years.
This raises a question: has this kind of dialogue around abstraction come to an end in the 21st century rather than being continued?
King’s Head abstraction
The curators place the 20th century’s avant-garde’s photographic experimentations (ie., abstraction) in the context of wider developments in art, with examples of cubism, abstract expressionism, Bauhaus and op art providing benchmarks. The curatorial argument is that abstract photography has evolved in step with painting and that there is a shared history. The relationship between painting and photography has been a symbiotic one, a close mutualist relationship that has benefited both art forms.
An alternative interpretation is that abstract photography followed behind abstract painting, in that abstract painters influenced the way photographic artists understood image and that the photos are the monochrome equivalents of paintings. This interpretation reinforces the culturally conservative position of the supremacy of painting. This conservative interpretation overlooks the way that both Rodchenko and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy challenged the supremacy of painting by refusing to see any medium as more important than another, and by working in fields as diverse as film, graphic and theatre design, sculpture, painting and light shows. The common tendency in the Australian art institution is to adopt the conservative interpretation. Continue Reading…