In the middle of 2017, possibly after discussions with Gary Sauer-Thompson, I decided to deliberately photograph Sunshine. With an emphasis on the rapid change that is occurring. This has turned into slow burning project. Its final conclusion and outcome is uncertain.
I have lived in this suburb since the early 2000s. Digital photography at the time was still in its infancy 20 megapixel sensor DSLRs were still prohibitively expensive. I was predominately using film. My first digital camera was a Kodak DC 260. A capable camera by the standards of the time. Disks and storage in the early 2000s were also prohibitively expensive making archiving difficult. This was the era where the floppy disk at 1.5 mb was the standard. Still with that first camera I managed over 12000 pictures in its 4 year life. Many of these pictures were of anything and everything that caught my eye. I was at this stage a relative newcomer to Sunshine, so there was lots to explore and look at. Living near a major infrastructure site helped too. We have a grain silo on one edge of the park at the end of our street. We have both a busy Metro train service and a 3 regional rail services using the station near us. The land in and around these kind of service spaces have always fascinated me. Even before moving to Sunshine I would trek out to the Western suburbs of Melbourne looking for unique sites of neglected post industrial glory.
This project, currently housed on tumblr ticks away quietly now. There are some major infrastructure projects underway, with a major residential hotel planned nearby as well. So change is constant. I have discovered a new commemorative plaque nearby too. I think I need to capture all these as well now. They are useful for their textual information alone. I am building a page dedicated to the history of Sunshine on my static website too.
Is it possible to describe a photograph without interpreting it? Can a viewer ever be as dispassionate as the mechanism of a camera? And how far can a photographer’s intentions determine responses to their image, decades after it was made? These are just a few questions that David Campany eloquently addresses in On Photographs. In the tradition of Susan Sontag and John Berger, Campany explores the tensions inherent to the photographic medium – between art and document, chance and intention, permanence and malleability of meaning – as well as the significance of authorship, performance, time and reproduction.
I have been thinking a lot of late about Melbourne International Airport lately. I regularly visit there as my wife travels frequently for her job. I often collect her and occasionally drop her off. I also love flying and aeroplanes generally. The history of the creation and development of Melbourne International Airport, or Tullamarine, is well documented. I can add my own history of the place too. I was a young boy when construction wound down. I used to ride my bicycle there and wander around and explore. There was a working model of the airport showing how the ATC operated with moving models, and commentary. Which I have fond memories of.
While I do not currently live in the same postcode as the airport I am very close and can easily get there in a matter of minutes if the light beckons. Sometime in 2019 I decided to start visiting the edges of the airport to try and make interesting pictures, or perhaps document the changes as they occurred. I started the idea using colour. I have shot about six rolls of 120.
A day or two ago I went in search of more pictures near the airport. I took several cameras. But made no pictures on colour film of the edges of the airport. Using a DSLR I managed to scope some good spots that might be worthy of a revisit. One of the ideas that are floating in my mind as I think about this place is the use of the land on the edges of the airport, where does the airpot begin and end, how is it defined.
The edges of the airport are predominantly industrial as the nearest suburb is Gladstone Park on the southern edge. Sunbury is on its north western edge and Avondale Heights on its Southern edge. The industrial land close to the airport is mostly distribution centres with some training and maintenance facilities. These are ordinary concrete structures reminiscent of Lewis Baltz’s work ‘The New Industrial Parks near Irvine California’. I am hoping to avoid making picture of these. I’m more interested in how the land is used in an area that has largely been frozen in terms of development since the airport was constructed in the late 1960s.
The airport has its own postcode. Which makes preplanning visits easy. As I grew up in the area I have a knowledge of the environment that few would recognise. As a cab driver in my mid 20s. I learned all about accessing the airport from every direction too. I am using all this knowledge to visit and revisit areas in and around the publicly accessible areas of the airport. My current process is just wander/drive and see what turns up.
The image above, hosted on flickr is an example of that research.
Lately, my social media habits have drifted away from the big platforms. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. So my news and information sources has returned to pre-social media tools. Things like email, and their associated newsletters, as well as RSS feeds. One constant for me though since 2004 has been Flickr.
I try to upload one picture a week every week. Sometimes I post more frequently. There is a method to my uploading. Flickr once a hive of social activity now is a far quieter place. There are a handful of groups that are vey engaged. Some even stray a long way from photography which is at the core of what drives flickr. I had reason recently to visit an almost dormant group called the clubhouse. Another member had popped in and left a message to see who else was around. There has been 2 response, one from me and one from Chris. I then started poking around the archives of this group and found some thoughts I had shared there in 2006. As the group is ‘private’ all I can do is copy the post itself.
Here it is
Interrelationships are what I’m finding the most intriguing for me at the moment, form and light have always been a driving force behind my work too, as have the “marks of man”.
Frederick Sommer’s quote, “some speak of a return to nature, I wonder where they could have been”, now rings true even more in my mind now as I wander the streets and suburbs of Melbourne, perhaps it’s an age thing?
However a question that may never get answered is what of the photograph as an ‘object’ unto itself, in this day and age of LCD’s CRT”s and bits and bytes, combined with the wonderfully democratic process of digital capture and global encompassing online communities such as this one?
Originally posted on another platform I’m re-posting here for prosperity with a minor edit.
Winter light prompted me to get my 5×4 inch monorail camera out.
I have been interested in making pictures in the Urban Landscape since 1988. I began my photography studies in 1987. After 2 years I realised I was mostly interested in photographing the landscape and in the context of art. I spent the next 3 years undertaking a fine art degree. This allowed me to think about the what the why and how of art making. Could I try and make art this way?
In the beginning my work was influenced by Ansel Adams, and the idea of a sublime landscape. Images made in his style, and of similar subject matter were the kind I aspired to. As an urban dweller most of my life, trips to the ‘wild/sublime’ were infrequent and determined by my free time. What this meant was, it was difficult to really capture imagery that was truly ‘sublime’.
Light in Australia is at its best in the shoulder periods leading up to autumn and spring. Winter light when it shines is also wonderful. Of course light is often best in the magic hour any time of the year. Magic hour in the suburbs is easy to chase, in the outback, not so. Most ‘wild or sublime’ locations in Melbourne are at a minimum one hours drive away. So getting to this kind of location is time consuming and can be difficult, even with a car. The urban landscape is all around me. I can catch public transport there if I need and even on occasion walk.
I am involved in several groups on flickr that share pictures in a similar vein. The idea still flourishes to this day and is almost a worldwide movement.
When I’m out to making pictures, mentally I go to a ‘place’. A place that is hard to describe but very beneficial. It engages my brain in a way where I am in the moment like no other activity I engage in. Time disappears. Just a series of small decisions. Left? Right? Up? Down? Looking without thinking and at the same time only looking and thinking? This is my main motivation that almost zenlike state I enter when alone in the urban landscape with my cameras.
On the 5th of July 2019. The light was magnificent, as it often is in Melbourne mid winter. I went outside and made some pictures with both colour and black and white film, in 120mm and large format. Because the light struck me as well as the mood. And because it felt right.