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Eric and Gilbert’s day trip

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.

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Jabuk-2

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Jabuk-1

gilbert-at-work

Gilbert at work

Hopetoun phototrip

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.

railway shed, Hopetoun Wimmera

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

rust + scrub

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 LakeLake 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.

Ruins, Murrayville

I briefly walked around Murrayille on my way back from the Lajamanu trip,  and it looked to offer  photographic  possibilities  with respect to  both the decay and the quirkiness  of  the Mallee. Read More

Ouyen,Victoria

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.

 

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signs, Wimmera Mallee

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.

 

Mallee signs, Wimmera, Victoria

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

Carwarp

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:

Mallee, Hattah-Kulkyne NP

Though I  was wandering around at a good time–there was  the soft late afternoon light—I still struggled to photograph this landscape. The low scrub is so messy.  Read More

exhibition no. 1

We–Gilbert RoeEric Algra and myself-— are having an exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab gallery  opening October 7th, 2016.  This is a  kick starter exhibition  for the project,  as it were. We each have an individual  section in the gallery for our images and a common space  of shared images. It will be minimal from my perspective–I have the least number of the images in the exhibition-  only 5 images— but I do have a number of cards, or 6×4 prints.

This week  we  have been working out the logistics of the exhibition–what images go in what spaces in the gallery,  and how  we divide the gallery space between the three photographers–and then hanging the exhibition. This is the poster for the exhibition that was created by Eric:

Poster, Mallee Routes

One of my  interests in the Mallee Routes project is to connect our  photography of the Mallee to the digital humanities, since the humanities  have been traditionally  committed to  a non‐vocational, non‐instrumental pursuit of knowledge. Our   photography of the Mallee is this kind of knowledge.  Read More

silos + memory

I noticed  this silo  when I was driving from Lameroo to Karoonda  on my way back to Victor Harbor after the silo photoshoot at Lameroo.  It was  near  a little hamlet or settlement called Kulkami in the southern Mallee.  There was no railway line near the silo. It was late in the afternoon  and the burst of sunlight had gone by the time that I’d  walked around the fenced  area to find  the right position or perspective  to photograph the silo:silo, Kulkami

The silos   dominate the landscape and  they embody the hopes, dreams and memories of the people who settled The Mallee and endeavoured to make it their home.   In the wheatlands, the heartland of rural decline, memory illuminates the social significance, rather than the agricultural or commercial viability, of the farming landscape. Historical memory is located in those places most closely associated with social interaction and a sense of community.  The locus of memory lies more readily in place than in time, in locale than in epoch. Landscape seems the seat of collective memory, rooted as it is in specific sites such as the community hall.

 railyard, Ouyen

The importance of memory  provides a way to  move the project beyond  showing photos on the wall in the traditional art galleries  by positioning  this collaborative project within the <a href="http://www.culturemachine.net/index synthroid medication.php/cm/issue/view/23″>digital humanities. The project is a  part of digital media technology and  it takes place in a computational age,   where technology enables access to the databanks of human knowledge (eg., Trove) from anywhere, disregarding and bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of knowledge in the state, the universities and the market.The project  is  a digital work in so far as it is a  web based artefact — a  website  with a blog   and  an e-book at the end of the project.

The Mallee Routes project  would  question the standard assumption implicit in much traditional humanities research, e.g. close reading, canon formation, periodization, liberal humanism, and literature (rather than  culture or philosophy) being the central  Humanities discipline in the university. For instance, as a  collaborative project Mallee Routes breaks with the traditional idea of singular authorship—eg., the   stable,  individualised, proprietorial, liberal humanist author who claims the legal right to be identified as their authors, and to claim these texts as their property.

 

Peake’s sacred sites

On a  recent day trip along the South Australian section of the Mallee Highway  I stopped off  at Peake to photograph the silo there.  Peake  is a grain receival centre  on  the rail line from Tailem Bend to Ouyen and like so many of  the tiny settlements in the Mallee’s wheatlands it’s presence  in the landscape is signalled by a cluster of cylindrical grain silos and a few modest cottages.

After, the photoshoot, whilst having my lunch on the picnic table in the public garden,   I started  thinking about the traditional split between modernist ‘art photography’ and documentary photography in the 1930s period.The duality of art’ versus ‘documentary’  basically means  documentary as social critique and not initially intended as art within the institutional  art gallery context.  Traces of this  duality  remain today, even though  documentary photography since the 1980s has lost much of its critical function and many documentary photographs were recuperated by the art gallery and sold as art. Documentary  photographs are  deemed have been taken straight from life and are seen as a truthful depiction of the world because it avoided the personal, subjective expression of media such as painting.  The ethos is one of using the camera as an  objective means of recording subjects that documented rather than interpreted. Photographic documents aspired to a ‘straight’ photographic style – direct and unmediated – that described ‘facts’ in a neutral, objective way.

After lunch I  wandered around  the hamlet/town   to take a few snaps in the form of everyday, vernacular snapshots.  One  scene  that I decided to scope was  the local war memorial, which was  at the eastern end of  the  public garden,  just in front of  the silo:

lest we forget, Peake

 

I assumed that though the two world wars  passed quietly in the Mallee,  those living there  felt the need to establish a lasting memorial to those who had gone to fight for King and Country and  to secure allegiances with the Mother Country.  These war memorial sites of  a once British Australia  mourn and honour Australians who have served and died for their country. War memorials, such as this one at Peake,  are the sacred places of settler Australia.

water-towers in the Mallee

Although it is  the grain silos along the old  railway lines that dominate the landscape in the Mallee, the odd-looking,  elevated  water-towers in the various towns also stand out. These water towers suggest that water is scarce in the Mallee, and that it needs to be either piped in from a river,  or drawn from the underground aquifers. Even though the Mallee  lacks water  due to the low rainfall and no  rivers, and is is a dry country prone to drought and dust storms, the development of the Mallee through agriculture were deemed to be the key to economic growth.

If  the Mallee was to be a prosperous and cheerful place to live in, with the small wheatlands settlements being  the nucleus of community life,  then the country  needed water.  The photo below is  an  example of an elevated  water tower  in Karoonda, South Australia. I assume  that water is pumped into the tower  from  some form of  earthen  storage:

Water tower, Karoonda

The initial form  of  water infrastructure  in the Mallee  was  bore water, sourced  from drawing from  the ground water in  the various acquifer systems underlying the Mallee.  The main aquifer system is the vast underground artesian basin in which the water  from  the Grampians filters through the underground coral acquirers as it flows toward the River Murray.  A line of bores powered by windmills was  put down from Underbool to the South Australian border by the Victorian government prior to World War 1,  and the increase in  water supply, along with the rail link  from Tailem Bend to Ouyen,  enabled  the rapid settlement of the Mallee. This largely took the form of small blocks.

The next step in  the  Mallee’s publicly built water infrastructure was the  open,  earthen channel system, known as the Dennying Channel,  was a   stock water supply and irrigation infrastructure  that ran from the Grampians ranges south of Horsham, north beyond Ouyen to Manangatang in the northern Mallee.  It was 17,500 kilometres long and it delivered water to storage dams across the Victorian Mallee. The water was extracted from the Wimmera River  but the channel  was inefficient means of transporting water, due to silt, weeds, drift sand and high levels of seepage and evaporation.  Up to 90 percent of the water extracted from the Wimmera River was lost through evaporation and seepage.
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