Literary Response to Covid 19

There is plenty being written about the pandemic across every political spectrum. This article turned up in my newsfeed on Facebook recently. The title Melbourne is not a city in revolt. The truth is far more incredible (and far more boring) says plenty, but the article really sums up how many ordinary folks are feeling myself included.

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Some West Suburban Bungalows

In 1966, Ed Ruscha photographed ‘Every building on the Sunset Strip‘ in Los Angeles. It became a book and the original is highly sought after. I have seen the copy the NGV has in its collection. Such a simple and elegant idea. The book is one long accordion type book. It is small but intriguing. I have attempted my own version of the idea twice now. Once in Yarraville with a small stretch of houses that have since been demolished, for the Regional Rail Link. The ‘album’ is on flickr it is entitled Buckley Street Seddon. It took  approximately 40 minutes to make those pictures.

I did the same recently, only this time I walked along Wright Street, Sunshine, from Stanford Street to Hampshire Road.

64 Wright Street, Sunshine
64 Wright Street, Sunshine
66 Wright Street, Sunshine
66 Wright Street, Sunshine
68 Wright Street, Sunshine
68 Wright Street, Sunshine
70 Wright Street, Sunshine
70 Wright Street, Sunshine
72 Wright Street, Sunshine
72 Wright Street, Sunshine
74 Wright Street, Sunshine
74 Wright Street, Sunshine
76 Wright Street, Sunshine
76 Wright Street, Sunshine
78 Wright Street, Sunshine
78 Wright Street, Sunshine
80 Wright Street, Sunshine
80 Wright Street, Sunshine
82 Wright Street, Sunshine
82 Wright Street, Sunshine
84 Wright Street, Sunshine
84 Wright Street, Sunshine
86 Wright Street, Sunshine
86 Wright Street, Sunshine
88 Wright Street, Sunshine
88 Wright Street, Sunshine
90 Wright Street, Sunshine
90 Wright Street, Sunshine
92 Wright Street, Sunshine
92 Wright Street, Sunshine
94 Wright Street, Sunshine
94 Wright Street, Sunshine

I started at the Stanford street and walked West, the numbers on that side of the street are even numbers. I excluded the corner houses. The photography component took all of 20 minutes.

There was one empty block primed and ready for redevelopment. And two other blocks with for sale signs on them. Big changes are indeed afoot. What form shape or size they will take remains to be seen I guess?

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New Projects?

Bulla, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2020-05-22 14:42:30

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 workThe 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.

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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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Meanwhile on Flickr

Spencer Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2013-11-02 14:43:30
Spencer Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2013-11-02 14:43:30

My flickr stream is one that is highly curated. I look for similarities or disparities that tie the images together. I treat my flickr stream as a 24/7/365 gallery.

Using Lightroom it is easy to duck and weave around and collate worthwhile images that can then be later drawn upon to upload. Tools like Lightroom and Aperture have made the process possible. Otherwise locating specific images in my unwieldy 200000+ image library would be nigh on impossible.

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