a Wimmera detour through historical traces

I am off to Melbourne to attend the Melbourne Art Book Fair 2019   at the NGV  and to see what is happening in the world of Photobooks.  I plan to make a detour via the Wimmera Mallee as the weather  forecast  is for  overcast cloud cover and cool conditions around  the Horsham region. It is forecasted to be hot and sunny on the return leg to Adelaide, which is not good conditions for my large format photography.

I am using this quick detour to pickup  the Mallee Routes project as this   has been on the back burner over the long, dry  hot  summer months in 2018-19.   I haven’t made any road trips  for the project since spring of 2018, nor have I been on any photo camps   since those in 2018 at Lake Boga in Victoria and Balranald in NSW in 2018.  I need to reconnect with the project after working on Reconnections: Walking Wellington and the coastal macro photography whilst on the daily poodlewalks.

I plan to travel on the B240  to St Arnaud, camping  overnight in the Horsham area–probably staying over night at Lake Marma at Murtoa, then spending  the next  day moving around  the Buloke region—Minyip, Donald, Charlton, Wycheproof, and Birchip in the Loddon Mallee  before spending the night at Foletti Park in Donald.   There is no specific location or subject matter that I have in mind on this minor detour; it is more   reconnecting with the project after a 6 month break and then seeing what eventuates.  Hopefully the forecast for cloudy weather holds   for the detour to Melbourne.   Read More

summing up exhibition: Murray Bridge Regional Gallery

As a result of a recent meeting  in November between  Fulvia Mantelli, the new director of  the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, myself and Gilbert Roe  the date of the next Mallee Routes exhibition  in  February 2019 in the Jean Sims Gallery has been cancelled. The exhibition  has been shifted to 17 December 2019 to the 19th January 202o. It is  now in the the main gallery plus the Jean Sims Gallery gallery  (with  the  possibility of also using the Vicki Nottage Sculpture Court). That is a lot of exhibition space.

I am happy with the shift as we now have  increased space  and  more time. This allows me to  reconstruct the  Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2017 photobook that had been put on hold to prepare for the February 2019 exhibition.  I also have time  to make   extra road trips in the autumn and winter of 2019—  I will definitely be  returning to  Lake Boga and Balranald in 2019   for more photo camps  to continue digging  beneath the Mallee’s surface.

The large space provided by  the main gallery plus the side galleries means that the project has  been given greater acceptance and credibility by the curator.   This  provides us with an opportunity to  substantially expand  on the work that we  exhibited at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.  The  Read More


During my solo photo camp at Balranald in NSW in the spring of 2018 I started to concentrate on photographing  the interiors of  deserted buildings. One reason for the shift was that I was becoming interested in the interiors of these silent buildings in themselves. A second reason was that the interiors  of the various buildings at the Yanga Woolshed National Park were publicly accessible.  A third reason  was to bring the subject matter into my understanding of  the tension between the large format  photography of the Mallee as trace (document)  and as picture (artwork).

What had intrigued me on the previous  road trip to Balranald was how the decayed interiors  had  the  traces of events that occurred in the past,  and that these  ones   hold more memories. The straightforward presentation  of the interiors allows the viewer to actively interpret them  in the present  as metaphors,  or the interiors being  psychologically loaded, or as the past intruding on the present in a meaningful way.

This is  a photography after the event –a photographing of  the traces of pastoralism before this  particular history of the Mallee was erased.  This kind of late photography in the era of television,   newer technologies and the mediascape of a commodity culture, turns up late, wanders through the places where things have happened, and starts to explore  the effects of the activity of a world gone. Though people are absent in this  still photography of traces, fragments, empty buildings of an increasingly forgotten history,  there is  a lot of remnants of human activity in the detritus left behind.  Read More

Yanga Station: woolshed and homestead

On  my  solo  photocamp at Balranald I photographed in and around  the Yanga Station including the Woolshed and the homestead. Yanga Station, as is well known,   was one of the Riverina’s most productive,  freehold pastoral stations,  and it  is now located in the Yanga National Park near the  Murrumbidgee Valley National Park.   Access to the park away from the wool facilities and homestead  was not possible as all the gates were locked. The best that could be recommended by the ranger was to go along the public road towards Woolpress Bend and to stop when I found a suitable place off the road to look at the vegetation.

The Yanga Woolshed  was built in the late 1800s along with the  various  outbuildings, including sleeping quarters and communal dining room. The shed was deliberately built on the bank of the Murrumbidgee River so wool bales from the store could be loaded directly into paddle-steamers for transport to Echuca.  The final shearing took place around 2005 during the Millennial Drought.  The woolshed now stands as a silent reminder of rural Australia’s  pastoral past.  This is the old wool press in the Yanga Woolshed.

I was  only dipping lightly into this Riverina pastoral world when compared  to the work of  Andrew Chapman,  who made a book about the  woodsheds,  the shearers, the roustabouts, the dogs etc in 2011.  My  dipping in was  to just  gain some  sense of the historical layers in the Mallee before pastoralism became  overlaid  with  dryland agriculture and the  wheat belt.  This is the transition from Australia being insular socio-economic outpost of Britain to becoming a sovereign nation-state operating in a global grain market. This transition profoundly altered the production, supply, price and quality of flour-based staples to the Australian and international markets.  Read More

second roadtrip to Balranald

I leave for another road trip to Balranald  early Tuesday (11th September)  morning. I need to build up some large format images for the forthcoming collaborative Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery  early  in 2019. I just don’t have enough work  for this last collaborative exhibition,   and  I need to make the pictures before it becomes too hot to photograph in the northern Mallee. I plan to  camp at Balranald,    as I did in early August,  so that I can easily access and  concentrate on photographing in and around the Yanga Woolshed as well as along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in Balranald itself.

I scoped the woolshed   whilst I was on  the August  road trip, and after looking at the converted digital  images on the computer, I  plan to do  more large format black and white photography:

I converted  the scoping images on the computer screen  from colour to black and white  because the interior of the woolshed  does suit black and white. It is also appropriate–more appropriate than the  digital colour images I made, which tended to make  the woolshed  look too touristy.  Woodsheds, similar to this one,  would have been  photographed in black and white in the early 20th century, so the blackk and white is reference point to the pastoral  history.    Read More

Mallee Routes photobook

I am currently working on making a second  limited edition photobook of the   Mallee Routes  project.  Its  working title is Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2017. It basically consists of  the prints of the 35mm and digital images that I made whilst I was scoping  for the film  images for the  collaborative  Mallee Routes exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab in 2016. These 6×4 prints  formed part of that exhibition. Since the exhibition, the prints have been sitting in a neglected pile in the corner of the Encounter Studio office  for nigh on  two years.

It was time something  was done with them. Hence the idea of a  limited edition book that would  include a few 35mm black and white images of the South Australia Mallee that I made in the 1980s.   It would have a small introduction. This is the cover image of the proposed book:

The  book  is to be similar in form to the Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2018  that I  did to include in the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in 2018. This too was constructed from scoping images for the large format photos shown in the exhibition, and  it was, by and large dominated to libraries in South Australian and Victoria.  It is what people would call an unsustainable business model, but it is a step to placing  the work  outside the confines of the white cube art gallery and the politics of the art market. Read More

Balranald photocamp: pastoralism

The winter photocamp at Balranald with Gilbert Roe  consisted of photographing on the property of John and Marita Standen’s  Rosenhoe farm, which is  on the Wakool River,  and scoping the area around Balranald itself, which is is located in Mutthi Mutthi traditional country. I would have liked to  extend the photocamp to do more exploring and some large format photography,  but  I had to return to Adelaide to prepare for the  Collaboration: Interrogating Melbourne’s changing urban landscape exhibition with Stuart Murdoch at Atkins Photo Lab for the SALA Festival.

On my  last day  at Balranald  I explored the Yanga Woolshed and homestead along with the outlying buildings of the Yanga  pastoral station  within the Yanga National Park. This Park  is now part of the larger Murrumbidgee Valley National Park.  The station, which was owned by the Black family since 1919,   abutted the Murrumbidgee River,  was built  in the 1830s by William Wentworth   and it was operational until the first decade of the 21st century. It is now a tourist site. I was the only tourist there that day,  and the buildings, including the homestead, are slowly becoming ruins from neglect.   The exception is the woolshed.

It was stepping back into the history of  the Mallee  –well a snap shot of the pastoral history which has largely been forgotten.  I presume that after around 180 years of grazing, the land was run down and the  native plants were sparse. Read More

roadtrip to Balranald, NSW

In a couple of days I am off on a roadtrip to Balranald in NSW  for a winter photocamp with Gilbert Roe.  I need to make some photos for the forthcoming exhibition at the  Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in February 2019. I am squeezing the roadtrip inbetween finishing  working on the photos for the SALA festival exhibition  and the opening of  the actual exhibition  with  Stuart Murdoch on  the 3rd August at the Atkins Photo Lab.  I have yet to work on the text or talk for the SALA exhibition but there is some background information with respect to the talk here and here.

An Anglican  church at  West Nylah from my time at the Lake Boga  photo camp in the Victorian Mallee:

I have little knowledge of  the  western part of the  Riverina country around Balranald as I have only passed through on my way to Hay.  I presume that like the Swan Hill  region  the Riverina is centred on  irrigation, given that it is situated  around  the Murray and the Murrmbidgee Rivers and that it has  large irrigation areas. My understanding is that the Murrumbidgee River, which is 1,600 km long,   is the second largest source of water flows into the Murray-Darling system;   and that it  is ranked as one of the two least ecologically healthy of the 23 tributary rivers in the Basin. Read More

an old water tank and the supplement

Whilst I was on the Morgan photo camp in 2017 I decided to incorporate some 5×4 black and white photography into the Mallee Routes project through photographing this rusty water tank  with the Sinar F2  monorail. I wanted a bit of grittiness and punch,  and I thought that using  a large format  camera and 5×4 black and white sheet film would be suitable for some bleak subject matter. This I thought would suggest  the harsh condition of the Murray Mallee in the 20th century.


My black and white photography was marginal but I  figured that black and white would work well representing the ruins of  the family farms,  soldier settlements and bores of the  20th century  Mallee.  This history was disappearing –eg., most of the older railway branch lines that  had been  used for transporting wheat  had been  pulled up in the 1990s,  and there is little to no  trace of these branch lines  in the  landscape  in  the 2nd decade of the 21st century. They are now different kinds of lines on old railway maps.  Read More

Lake Boga photo-camp

The exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery has finished,  and Gilbert Roe and I  decided to add on a photo-camp at Lake Boga when  we  picked up our prints from the gallery. The  photo-camp, even  for a few days,  would allow us to explore the Mallee region  around Swan Hill,  and to build on the new beginnings that had we had either briefly scoped or seen whilst  we were in Swan Hill for the exhibition opening.

I had two large format  scenes lined up from the earlier scoping:  a 5×4 of exposed river roots along  the River Murray and a 5×7 of an edgelands scene near the Little Murray River  on Pental Island.  I also wanted to photograph  the deserted motels around  Lake Boga in the early morning light,   and then some of the shops in the township at Nyah West in the late afternoon.    That was the plan. The early morning motel photoshoot with a medium format camera went okay,  but I just couldn’t get it together at Nyah West in the afternoon.  Read More