returning to the Wimmera Mallee

I am planning to make a quick return to the Jung and Murtoa region in the Wimmera Mallee whilst Suzanne is walking in Lord Howe Island. I am piggybacking on spending a weekend (6th-8th September) with the Friends of Photography Group (FOPG) at Mt Arapiles in Victoria’s Wimmera plains.

FOPG are a Melbourne-based large format film landscape photography group who make a number of day excursions together during the year as well as a couple of weekend ones. They also have frequent print viewings and a yearly exhibition. The FOPG group was formed in 2015, and it is led/facilitated by David Tatnall, who also writes the very impressive View Camera Australia blog.

water tower, Jung, Wimmera

Sadly, there is no such volunteer group in Adelaide. Adelaide’s photographic culture is currently dominated by the South Australian branch of the commercially orientated AIPP photographers.

Hence my interest in linking up with those large format photographers in Melbourne who are working outside the photographic industry; even though I am on the margins of the FOGP group, as I am not a wilderness orientated landscape photographer and I don’t print my negatives in a wet darkroom.

At Tanunda: space/place

I have taken the opportunity kindly offered by a group of people who are walking the Lavender Trail to join them for a 5 day camp at Tanunda in the Barossa Valley this weekend (22nd-27th August). My designation is a non-walking member of the group, which means that instead of walking the different parts of the Lavender Trail each day like the others, I will be out photographing in the Murray Mallee.

The plan is to travel each day from the Lavender camp at Tanunda over the Mt Lofty Ranges, across the agricultural plains (via Kyneton and Sedan) to Swan Reach on the River Murray. I then drive into the country on the eastern side of the river to photograph within the western region of the Murray Mallee.

Murray Mallee landscape

Initially, I will be endeavouring to complete the work which I was unable to do on the earlier trip to Galga and Copeville. I will photograph some landscapes to construct a Murray Mallee suite to be included in the Mallee Spaces/Places section in the main gallery of Murray Bridge Regional Gallery for the 2019 December exhibition.

Some might say that this photography is journeying through space to undertake some mapping. But it is more a writing, or a photographing, of place; or at least an attempt to adopt a topological approach.

Copeville and Galga

I mentioned in an update on the Claypan post that I needed to make another trip to the Copeville and Galga area of the South Australian Murray Mallee to pick up where I’d have left off. As I mentioned, the previous trip had been cut short, as I’d neglected to take my sleeping bag; and it was too cold to continue sleeping in my clothes in the swag in the early winter month of June.

am, limestone quarry, Copeville, South Australian mallee

I plan to start the Copeville/Galga trip within a week so— definitely after the current high winds and stormy weather. I will initially return to stay at the limestone quarry at Copeville, as there are not many public spaces in this part of the Murray Mallee— just unsealed roads between fields. The quarry is a sheltered space away from the roads, and it is preferable to swagging within the sparse roadside vegetation on an unsealed road.

phototrip to Claypans

I leave for a short photo trip to Claypans in the Murray Mallee in South Australia tomorrow morning (Saturday 15th, June). It’s only for a couple of days, to allow me to do some black and white photographs of some of the scenes that I’d scoped when returning to Adelaide from the Wentworth trip. I will also explore around the nearby Copeville and Galga region.

The images are for the Absent History section (in a side gallery) of the upcoming Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in December 2019. The other sections of the exhibition are Mallee Spaces (the main gallery) and Unknown Futures in another side gallery. The side galleries are a supplement to the core exhibition in the main gallery.

This sandstone church at Claypans is one of the scenes that I want to rephotograph with the 5×4 Sinar f1 and the Cambo 8×10. The digital colour version of the church, which can be seen here, is not suitable for the Absent History exhibition.

Claypans, SA Mallee

I am the only one in the group who is substantively interested in creating a body of photos from an absent history perspectives. This is a different perspective to that of photographing what currently exists in the various regions of the Mallee, since it explores a history that has been lost and forgotten in the present.

a Yarriambiack suite?

Prior to the Wentworth photocamp on the Darling River I spent some time in the Victorian Wimmera thinking about, and scoping for, a series of images that I planned to call the Yarriambiack suite. Would this be a goer?

The trip involved a lot of travelling. I went to Wentworth via the Dukes Highway and the Victorian Wimmera (Murtoa, Donald, Lake Boga and Swan Hill) and I returned to Encounter Bay via the Goyder Highway, Morgan and the South Australia Mallee.

I set up the tent for the 4 days I camped at Wentworth, and swagged the rest of the time that I was on the road. The stopovers at Murtoa, Donald, and Swan Reach were only over-night stays.

Yarriambiack Creek, Henty Highway, Victoria

Whilst I was driving around the Victorian Wimmera I thought that a Yarriambiack suite would work for the Mallee Spaces on a back wall in the central gallery of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery for the upcoming exhibition in December. The suite would be a series of photos of the Yarriambiack region –say a series of 4-5 images — that would represent different aspects of the different aspects of the spatial dimension of the Victorian Wimmera.

So I spent a day or so driving around the Wimmera and I ended up concentrating on scoping the ephemeral Yarriambiack Creek. I was looking for places where there was no water in the creek, as I already had some photos of water in the creek near Jung from a previous trip.

Wentworth photocamp

I am planning to go on  a photocamp at  Wentworth and the lower Darling River  next Thursday (25th of April) for the Mallee Routes project. I want to travel slowly to Wentworth as I need to spend time in the Wimmera Mallee region, retracing my steps from an earlier exploration. I will probably stay over night at Murtoa or Donald before going onto Wentworth.

Yarriambiack Creek, Wimmera, Victoria

My plan in the Wimmera is very dependant on the weather, but I hope to photo the Yarriambiak Creek near Murtoa, the silos in the landscape at Jung in the early morning; then some old machinery at Donald in the afternoon. These sites had been previously scoped when I made a detour on the trip to Melbourne.

The Wentworth photocamp will allow me to  explore the lower  Darling River, to see if I can make any photos for my climate change contribution to the unknown futures section of the upcoming 2019 exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional gallery.

The Mallee’s unknown futures

The photography in  the forthcoming Mallee Routes exhibition  in late 2019   will now be  spread across  the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery’s three galleries, namely,  the small Jean Symonds Gallery, the large Main Gallery and the small  Sculpture Court gallery.  These three galleries are linked and this gives the exhibition a unity.  The overall exhibition is organised in terms of past (in the Jean Symonds Gallery),  present (in the Main Gallery) and future (in the Sculpture Court gallery.) So the 2019 exhibition  will be more conceptual orientated  than the 2018 exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.

The  photography in  the  Sculpture Court  emerges from an exploratory  nomadic roaming about,  and it will be more  experimental in content and presentation than the photography in the other two galleries.    It  will explore  themes   such as  climate change, water,  C roads and salt.   These themes are part of the specific and complex historical quality of our present, its contemporaneity. It is experimental in  that  the photography is  no longer subservient to the debilitating effects of cliches about the Mallee or drought; it is  one  that  endeavours to  adapt the critical  potential  of  the arts to both the new global /digital situation today  and the problems that those in the Mallee will  face. Since the work is a looking towards unknown futures,  the photography necessarily crosses the bounds of common sense to make relations and connections within possibilities not already given in the present. The question that is  posed is: how can photography explore this futurity in relation to the Mallee?

The  theme  that I will personally start to explore is  the future effects of climate change in the Mallee based on the CSIRO’s  State of the Climate 2018 report, which  is the latest biennial snapshot of climate change in Australia. This report says that climate change superimposed on natural variability will continue in the decades ahead. Australia, as a result,  will experience  more hot days with decreases in rainfall across southern Australia with more time in drought. Water is going to become even more critical so will the health of  the Murray-Darling Basin’s rivers and the sustainability of the land. It will be difficult to move beyond the cliches of photojournalism and the myths of Australian history.

The photographic explorations   of the  different  themes  can be understood as  an experimental crossing of borders  to   explore  the ‘same’ conflictual reality and unknown futures  in diverse ways.    This  involves new  ways of thinking, seeing, talking, as these arise from the  particular circumstances of the  contemporary, which contracts the future into the present:  the contemporary is a disavowal of the futurity of the present.  This photography about the Mallee’s unknown futures is based on  the artist as experimenter or cartographer,  working  in the zones of the contemporary world where processes   may go off in unforeseen directions or function  in unregulated and different ways. Read More

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