Slow burning projects

Vacant Land awaits redevelopment in Sunshine
Vacant Land Sunshine pending possible redevelopment, 2020-05-30 15:57:48

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 200s. 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.

Why I photograph the urban landscape?

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 career  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 an 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.

While at University I was introduced to Joe Deal’s work. In particular the San Andreas Fault series [see image from sofomoma.org below]. The idea that images of a constructed or altered landscape could be valuable and interesting helped me look in other directions. Other Photographers and Artists I was introduced to in this period included, Robert Adams, Frank Gohkle, Hille and Bernd Becher, Lewis Baltz, Henry Wessel Jr.  No photographer worth their salt can neglect to mention the pivotal 1976 exhibitor at George Eastman House, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” either.

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.

Joe Deal, Brea, California, from the portfolio The Fault Zone, 1979, printed 1981
Brea, California, from the portfolio The Fault Zone, 1979, printed 1981

When I go out to make 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 min motivation that almost zenlike stae I enter when alone in the urban landscape with my camera.

Then there are projects. Everyone has a project. Myself included. Some online some tangible objects. Some well formed, some roughly mapped in my head, others complete.  Pictures however are only ever pictures. We attach meaning and substance to them as a kind of construct, loaded with our own biases and prejudices.

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.

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Wordless Wednesday #20200513

Melbourne's skyline from West Melbourne in 2005
Melbourne’s skyline from West Melbourne in 2005. This view no longer accessible. As the Metro tunnel work s have repuposed the land and denied public access generally.

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TyYAT [2000-05-12]

still from 20 years ago today
Still life from 12th of May 2000 19:35:36

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.

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More distractions in the time of the pandemic

Sunset over Melbourne in 2000
Sunset over Melbourne in 2000

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Watching videos in the time of the pandemic?

The Audience Will Come from Doc League on Vimeo.

Documentary featuring photographer Tod Papageorge.
Part of the documentary series Viewpoint.
Director: Nicholas Panoutsopoulos.
Producers: Lena Anastasiadou, Tassos Rigopoulos.
Research and Consulting: Sam Barzilay

Hat tip to Luke*

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Reading in the time of the Pandemic [Quote for yesterday]


What seems to be real in the photograph is always a simulation of something else. We have shown how this way of thinking provided a theoretical basis for simulation methods in contemporary art and photography. The exploration of staging, quotation, repetition, copying and plagiarism typifies the postmodern trends of the 1980s. These anti-realist strategies found a rationale in the conceptual art movement’s critique of documentary methods and the emergence of sceptical attitudes to the truth claims of photography.

pg 169. RETHINKING PHOTOGRAPHY: Histories, Theories and Education, by Peter Smith and Carolyn Lefley published 2016 by Routledge, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN, ISBN: 978-1-315-72241-2 (ebk)

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