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

black and white 35mm archives

After seeing how successful the history section worked  when it was  integrated into  the contemporary photos in the  2018 Mallee Routes exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery,   I remembered that I had  some black and white 35mm  negatives of the Murray Mallee in my photographic  archives.  Over the weekend I went back and  looked at the contact sheets of the pictures from my  initial exploration of  the South Australian Mallee  country in the  late 1980s. I was curious to see  these 35mm photos,   and to assess  if  they would be suitable to construct  a history section in the Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in early 2019.

I have not seen these 35mm pictures since they had been  sleeved and filed away in  the  1980s.   I had previously only looked at the large format b+w ones that I had made with the 5×7 Cambo on the same road trips,  when I  was   selecting  a couple of  my images for  the history section of  the 2018 Swan Hill exhibition. This land had been permanently altered  for  agricultural production. 


From what I could  judge  from looking at the contact sheets of  these 35mm images, these  were made on  a few day trips  to the Mallee  in the VW Kombi.   I recall that most of them were made with  Kodak Tri-X film using a Leicaflex SLR,   rather than the 35mm Leica M-4  rangefinder, that I normally used.   Surprisingly, I discovered that  there were  no medium format contact sheets of  photos of the  Mallee country  in the archives. Read More

new beginnings

The post’s title new beginnings refers to me starting   to scope work for  the 2018 section of the Mallee Routes project whilst I was  at Swan Hill for the exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.    This is new work for the  upcoming group exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in early 2019. I want to present new work that has been made during 2018, rather than old work  made in 2017.  

It is a tentative start–exposed tree routes and low water levels along the Little Murray, which is an anabranch of the Murray River, and forms one side of Pental Island.  But it is a topical subject,  given both  the history of over extraction in the Murray-Darling Basin’s  rivers,  and the Murray-Darling basin plan, which was introduced in 2012 to return water towards the environment ($13bn in funding to recover water diverted to irrigation so as to  restore environmental  flows)  is failing to restore the Murray-Darling rivers’ health. There are not enough environmental flows in these rivers. Read More

exhibiting Mallee Routes at Swan Hill

Exhibiting  Mallee Routes  at the  wonderful Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in Victoria  opened on Friday the 23rd March, was a great experience.   The exhibition  was the result of a years work photographing the  South Australian and Victorian Mallee by Eric, Gilbert and myself Mallee after our  initial exhibition at Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide in late 2017.

It was  a successful opening with Mark Thomson giving an excellent opening speech based around the Mallee’s contradictions: the harsh,  flat country and the resilience of the people who lived and made the Mallee their home.  It expressed a sense of place.  Eric and Gilbert gave artist  talks about their work and the way they approached their photography on the Saturday morning.  What was surprising was that neither Eric nor Gilbert  offered any insights or responses to each other’s work, even though they would often travel together to photograph on  their Mallee trips. Surprising because  the Mallee Routes  project is a collaborative one. 

Eric and Gilbert both exhibited 30 A3 size prints each with Gilbert also providing a map of the Mallee.  I exhibited 11 A1 prints along with  a book of digital photos that I’d made whilst scoping  for the  film images in the exhibition.  The book  was printed by Momento Pro in Wellington, New Zealand,  and it was shown  at the Photobook/NZ festival, which  just prior to going to  Swan Hill  to help hang the exhibition. The historical section of the exhibition consisted of the 3 Lie of the Land images by Linda Marie Walker that were made in the 1980s, 2 black and white images of mine that were made in the 1980s and 6 images (black and white and colour) made by Eric in the 1990s. Read More