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:
We–Gilbert Roe, Eric 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:
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
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:
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.
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.