Whilst I was on the Hopetoun road trip in the Victorian Mallee in 2017 I experimented with photographing with black and white medium format film and with making some industrial abstractions. I wanted to broaden the way that I was photographing and I thought that black and white would work quite well with some subject matter in the Mallee.
This is an example from a photoshoot on a trip to Rainbow and Warracknabeal. It was over 40 degrees when I was scoping around Warracknabeal and I ended up wandering around an abandoned flour mill site at midday looking for some subject matter in the shade. I came across a couple of old water tanks and made some abstractions synthroid price.
The black and white photos were not that successful as I failed to expose the contrasty subject matter properly, whilst the development of the negatives by Black and White Photographics was overdone. Basically, they overcooked the negatives despite instructions to do the opposite. I realise that if I am to continue to work with medium format black and white film on the Mallee Routes project, then I am going to have to develop the negatives myself. I need greater control. Read More
I ‘ve been in the process of reworking the little speech that I gave at the opening exhibition of Mallee Routes at the Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide in late 2016. It has been posted on the text tab on the website. The speech, which was designed to link photography to the Humanities, was based around a quote by G.W.F. Hegel on philosophy that is towards the end of the Preface to his Philosophy of Right (published in 1821). This is the quote:
“When philosophy paints its grey in grey, then has a form of life grown old. Philosophy cannot rejuvenate it, but only understand it. The owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the coming of the dusk.”
In the speech I suggested that if we replace the word philosophy with photography, then we could see some affinities between Hegel’s text and the photography in the Mallee Routes project. The affinities include: the monochrome painting of grey in grey; the Mallee as a form of life grown old; photography cannot rejuvenate this form of life only understand it; photography takes place at the coming off dusk.
The speech then unpacked what this could mean for photographing the Mallee project through interpreting (or a making sense of) Hegel’s quote.
What I wanted to avoid in taking this approach was a melancholy interpretation of Hegel’s quote, and in turn, the photos in Mallee Routes project. On this interpretation photographing the Mallee is a form of nostalgic mourning for a 20th century form of life that is passing away, a late photography is a way of preserving the traces of a life that has passed, whilst finding it difficult to accept what has been lost. Hence there is a mourning for what is being lost. Read More
Whilst I have been working on images to build up my digital and film galleries I have been searching for some Australian antecedents to my documentary approach to photography for the Mallee Routes project. Who has been here before? What approach to documentary photography did they take? Is there a body of work that exists in the archives? Or do the archives mostly consist of vernacular photography as the history gallery is suggesting? What does the Australian documentary tradition look like? In what ways have the tensions in photography’s ambiguous status as art object and documentary information been dealt with?
One of the antecedents that I found was the work of Geoffrey Collings, a designer, film making and photographer who worked in the documentary tradition established by John Grierson, the leader of the British documentary movement, the American filmmaker Robert Flaherty, and the work of the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Under Roy Stryker, the latter employed photographers such as Walker Evans, Ben Shahn and Dorothea Lange from 1935 to 1943 to document the impact of the Great Depression on rural America, to show the necessity and effectiveness of New Deal agricultural programs, and to to sway public opinion in favor of the Roosevelt administration’s economic recovery programs. Read More
I took the opportunity to make a side-trip into the Victorian Mallee when I was transporting the prints from the Weltraum and Abstraction x 5 exhibitions to my fellow photographers—Stuart Murdoch, Judith Crispin and Jeff Moorfoot-— to the pick-up points of the Ballarat/Lyonville meet up near Melbourne.
It was a quick side-trip. I drove north-east from Horsham into the Wimmera-Mallee passing through Jung, Murtoa, Rupanyup and Marnoo to St Arnaud, before then driving down to Ballarat and Lyonville on the Sunraysia Highway. St Arnaud is the eastern edge of the Wimmera-Mallee and lies outside it. It is in the north Grampians and just north of the Pyrenees wine district. I didn’t know this area of the Wimmera-Mallee at all.
The reason is that I would normally drive straight to Melbourne from Adelaide via Nhill, Horsham and Stawell along the Western Highway. I would sometimes stop for lunch at Horsham, or stay overnight if I’d left Adelaide late in the day. I never made any side-trips north into the Wimmera-Mallee. Why would you? There’s not much there. It’s the cities that are of interest. I guess this is what a lot of people do when they are travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide:–they stick to the modern highway between the two capital cities and they try to get to their destination quickly with as few stops as possible.
My basic plan was to retrace my steps along the Wimmera Highway on my return journey from Melbourne to Adelaide, if I found interesting subject matter from the exploring these byways, and if there was more cloud cover during the day. I had packed both the 5×4 Linhof Technika and the Rolleiflex SL66 for this purpose. So my fingers were crossed. Read More
Mid September I was in Adelaide and caught up with Gilbert for a day trip into the Mallee Country.
We didn’t travel very far but made many photo stops. The day was cloudy which is pretty rare out there. This suited me fine as I love working with the light on such days. Unfortunately it wasn’t so good for Gilbert. The wind and occasional shower made pinhole photography difficult. Regardless, it was a great day out, giving us the opportunity for much discussion about the Mallee Routes project and photography in general.
With the initial exhibition of the Mallee Routes project Atkins Photo Lab finishing at the end of November I interrupted the archive project I was working on to go on a photo roadtrip to Hopetoun to build up my archive for the next exhibition, which has been planned to take place in 2017. Two overcast days after a big storm provided me with an opportunity to spend several days in the Wimmera Mallee, initially working on the silo project around Murrayville whilst the cloud cover remained. I then linked up with Gilbert and Eric at Hopetoun to explore the north western mallee region of Victoria.
This was the first time on the project that we worked and camped together. We were on the cusp of the summer, and though we only experienced one very hot, dry day with a north westerly wind, the recent heavy spring rains meant that there was a lot of stagnant, standing water lying around the countryside. This meant that it was a good season for the mosquitoes, and we experienced plague proportions of them, which, in turn, made camping at Hopetoun rather difficult.
Though I’d seen the Hopetoun photos of Leanne Cole on the web the area around Hopetoun was new territory for me. This is wheat country in the form of agri-businesses–ie., corporate farming— with its agricultural history one of achieving and celebrating human mastery over an unruly nature. On this road trip the farmers were starting to harvest their crops; the grain silos were being worked on, the wheat trains were on the move and the trucks were coming and going carrying wheat from the individual farms to the various silos. Read More
I have a phototrip to the Victorian Mallee planned around the 12th-15th November. The trip is in two parts: a camp at Murrayville on the Mallee Highway on my own for two days so that I can continue to work on the silo project and to look around the area for the Mallee Routes project, and then a camp at Hopetoun with Gilbert Roe and Eric Algra so that I can explore the area around the Jeparit/Hopetoun/Sea Lake/ Lake Tyrrell region around the Calder Highway.
I’m going because cloudy conditions are expected in this region of the Victorian Mallee for several days. These kind of conditions are few and far between, as the weather in the Mallee is normally bright, sunny and cloudless, and so not all that suitable for my style of photography.
On the western outskirts of Ouyen over looking the tennis club. The vegetation surrounding the town is quite scrubby. This photo was taken with my pin hole camera.
Early in 2016 I made a road trip to the Wimmera Mallee in Victoria. I was intrigued by this montage of old petrol and oil signs around Horsham that signified an earlier of motoring–some are prior to 1945. Veedol, for instance, was the motor oil chosen by Henry Ford to be the used in the Model “T” which was the world’s first mass-produced car. Veedol motor oil signs now sell on ebay as collector’s items.
The photograph provides a scene as opposed to a narrative, a scene that is always from the past and that has to be read like a tableau or a panorama, with the gaze moving across the plane of view in different directions, back and forward.
It’s another era of motoring; the early one in which the car replaced the horse and buggy as a mode of transport. These are signs of industrial modernity in Australia. Read More
I have another Mallee trip planned in early November with my base camp being at Murrayville. So I took the opportunity whilst traveling along the Calder Highway between Ouyen and Mildura to rendezvous with Judith Crispin to go to Lajamanu in the northern Tanami Desert to do a little exploring and photographic scoping. As I hadn’t been on the Calder Highway before so I was interested in seeing what this part of the Mallee had to offer re my approach to photographing the Mallee.
The Calder Highway, I discovered, runs through Mallee country that includes the Murray Sunset National Park and the Hattah Kulkyne National Park. Though I didn’t have the time to explore either of these national parks, I did briefly walk around the Hattah Kulkyne park. It is typical mallee country with extensive low scrub and open native woodland: