This post originally was written on a different platform. I’m posting it here for posterity’s sake.
|Stony Creek Backwash reserve 2020-03-30 13:58:15|
As I sat at my desk looking out onto our newly landscaped yard, on my fist day of term break. I was enranced by the light. I also had recently seen a fellow photographers work in and around the base of the West Gate Bridge on flickr and decided to investigate the location. I eventually found an urban park created by Maribyrnong Council and the friends of Stony Creek Inc.. I was surprised I had not investigated this space earlier? I look down on it ofen as I traverse the West Gate Bridge. It has always fascinated me as a passenger from that view.
The Stony Creek Backwash Urban Reserve is a well looked after green spot adjacent to several oil storage facilities. Nestled between the facilities and the West Gate Bridge it is a pleasant oasis. The park had many people wandering and bike riding though in and around it, despite restrictions in place for the Corona Virus.
I spent the amount of time I did here because as a location seen from above as I so often it appears intriguing. It is one of those places that has been through a series of uses. Despite some of which are detrimental to the vegetation. This vegetation has bounced back. Walking through the space and reading the signage placed at various points gives a sense of what the community aspires the space to be. Closer examination may contradict this, looking and walking beyond the established paths. It is apparent that while the vegetation is abundant it may not be as vibrant as expected. These kinds of spaces make me curious and are somewhat of a metaphor for my own existence. Geographically, metaphorically and metaphysically. They are the kinds of places I have photographed in and around for my entire career as a visual artist.
In my early days I only used black and white film. Now I pack colour and black and white film with me in my camera case as well as one or two digital capture devices when heading out to make pictures.
In the end I spent several hours there only leaving around 3:00pm as the light had turned too harsh for my liking.
“Stony creek Back Wash
In the 1850s, Stony Creek was an important route for labourers heading upstream to quarries located north and south of the creek. Th labourers quarried bluestone which was used to supply material for some of Melbourne’s earliest public buildings such as Pentridge Prison and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The leftover bluestone, used as ballast, was collected by ballast lighters and delivered to sailing ships at anchor waiting in Hobsons Bay.
To accommodate the growing industries and local businesses around the Yarra River port, a multitude of industrial rail siding were established in the Spotswood aerate connect the railway terminals at Hobsons Bay. The sidings were constructed between 1880 and 1930 and served numerous purposes throughout these 50 years. Th speak period of use for the sidings was from the 1920’s to World War II.
In 1927, the branch railway sidings were utilised to serve the Newport Oil Wharf berths along the Yarra river. The branch railway sidings served Shell, BP, Ampol an other oil terminals between Hall Street and Douglas Parade, while a circuitous line looped from Yarraville round along the West Bank of he Yarra River, over Stony Creek via a trestle bridge then on to the Vacuum Oil terminal, now Mobil.
The majority of the railway sidings have been decommissioned and the track s Ince removed. Remnants of the old Branch Railway sidings can be found in the eastern side of the backwash, running parallel with the Yarra River.”
Stony Creek Trestle Bridge
The stony creek footbridge extends across the breakwater enabling pedestrian and bicycle traffic access to the banks of the Yarra river. The view from the footbridge provides a unique perspective of the West Gate Bridge which is spectacular when lit up at night.
From the Oxbridge you can see the wreck of the historic barge used to transport shell grit to the nearby bottle works. Also visible are the remains of the former railway line that once traveled from Spotswood, along the edge of the Yarra river to the Yarraville oil wharf, as well as the footings of temporary peers used in the construction of the West Gate Bridge.
Prior to dispossession three adjoining Koori clans probably used the area as a meeting place and for gathering food along its embankments and wetlands. The Koories managed the creek environment to ensure that these resources would be adequate for their needs and succeeding generations. Midden sites were recorded at the creek’s mouth where the Koori’s feasted on shellfish. Evidence of other activities in the region include stone tool sites, silcrete quaries, scarred trees and burial places.
The Stony Creek belonged to the Marin bulluk clan, who occupied the area between Kororoit Creek and Maribyrnong River. This clan was part of the Woi wurrung, the tribal group which owned most of Melbourne. Bungarin was the head man of the Marin bulluk clan. He was also a guardian of the famous axe quarry at Mt William. Bungarin’s name appears as one of the ‘chiefs’ on John Batman’s so-called deed of purchase.
December 1803 A party from the schooner Cumberland follows the creek for one and a half miles. “It was salt and ended in a swamp.”
- 1835 Batman searching for pasture drops anchor opposite Stony Creek backwash.
- 1848 Creek briefly known as Murderer’s Creek after the discovery of Lucke’s battered corpse!
- 1850s Quarries opened up for ballast and building
- 1870s Noxious industries established: tannery, meat processing and glue works.
- 1919 Alfred Luizzi drowns attempting to cross in a flood.
- 1920s Market gardens established.
- 1940s Urbanisation spreads.
- 1970 West Gate Bridge collapses killing 35 workers.
- 1987 Ink spill into backwash kills mangroves.
- 1993 Friends of Stony Creek formed.
- 2001 Allied Containers constructed a bridge across Stony Creek without regulatory approval and Meadow Lea spill.
- 2002 Pivot Fertiliser Spill
- 2006 Fire destroys revegetated area at Hyde Street Reserve
- 2011 Stony Creek Future Directions Plan released
- 2013 Detergent spill
Recently I had call to revisit some of my receipts for taxation purposes. I was reminded immediately of a couple of purchases that I had not delved that deeply into in the 2 years I had owned them. One book required little more than a flip through the contents page to reveal useful but not burning questions buried within it. I was looking for idea and inspiration for my classes as well you see. This book entitled , ‘Rethinking Digital Photography Making & Using Traditional & Contemporary Photo Tools’ by John Neel will come in handy for exploring bespoke and handmade image making classes.
The other book, ‘The Camera Essence And Apparatus’ by Victor Burgin will hopefully float on or around my desk at home for a while. It may even get dragged to work. Burgin is a renowned Artist, Marxist and Theoretician. I have on loan from the RMIT library a copy of his photobook ‘Between’ published in 1986. ‘Between’ is a kind of retrospective catalogue, but is also a photobook unto itself, predominantly about the pictures with in it.
I am going to assume that both my readers know of my long interest in photobooks. They will also appreciate that I own the 3 volume set of the ‘History of the Photobook‘, by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger.
Reading the Burgin book, ‘Between’ got me wondering. Was it listed in the 3 volume set by Parr and Badger? Well the short answer is no. At least not in the index of any of the books. Another author/critic whose writings I admire is John Berger. He has co-published a photobook that is also very interesting, ‘Another Way of Telling’. This too is not listed in any of the 3 volumes. My question then to Mr Parr and Mr Badger. Why are these two Artists and their books omitted from your histories? Even though Martin Parr talks about the size of the task and the impossibility to include every photobook ever made in the introduction to Volume 1. Surely including ‘Between’, and ‘A Different Way Of Telling’ should have been a no-brainer?
In my early years of studying photography this kind of image would not have been considered. The success for me about this image is the mixed lighting sources firstly. Secondly the brief moment where the woman is glancing down on the CRT TV. These things combined with the kind of meta reference of the shadow of the tree outside. As an indexical marker a nice reminder of the light outside.
In exhibitions of contemporary art, the “Anthropocene” has become a cliché, folded into the usual mix of art jargon. Recent exhibition titles that include as subtitle some variation of “art and climate change” or “art and the Anthropocene” are too numerous to list. The rhetorical construction alone is telling. Framing the climate as a distinct concept for art, another notion to explore, creates an illusion of intellectual distance. But the reality of climate change isn’t a topic for some art to address; rather, it is a historical condition that informs all contemporary art.