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 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.

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’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.

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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More distractions in the time of the pandemic

Sunset over Melbourne in 2000
Sunset over Melbourne in 2000

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Wordless Wednesday pandemic edition #202004290700

New light industry development 2005
New light industry development 2005-12-23 17:30:13

Wordless Wednesday #20200422

IMG 8484

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