Thirty Plus Years Ago

A dark industrail scene from Melbourne's west in the early 1990s, in the foreground a pit of dark water, electric poles occupy the middle ground along with some fences sheds and other infrastructure container and a giant electricity transmission pylon can be seen in the distance, the sky has a smattering of small clouds
West Melbourne circa 1992

I was recently gifted a scanner. Thanks to Gary. This now means I can scan any or all of my analogue work on an as needs basis. All I need is time. This image has always stayed with me since I made it around 1992. It is one my earliest successes using 5×4 inch film. However it never moved beyond a contact print as the emulsion had been damaged  in a couple of places.

Now using Affinity Photo, I am at least able to resurrect it and use it online. I may some day get a commercial scan and make a big print from it.  In what context I’m not sure. I use Affinity Photo because it has a perpetual license and a few technical advantages over PotatoeShop.

I have been photographing this area for a long time and the changes are significant. I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Even after the major infrastructure project is over the mix of light industry along with the decaying  heavy industry and modern  architectural flourishes makes this in my mind an interesting place to photograph.

‘What is photography?’

‘What is photography?’ may sound like an easy question to answer but the potential replies could fill this book alone. The fact that photography can mean different things to different people is part of its enduring appeal. Photography is such a part of our lives now that it would be incomprehensible to think of a world without it. We probably couldn’t contemplate the fact of a wedding, watching the children grow up, or going on holiday without the camera. We are bombarded and saturated by images constantly, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, as well as the television and internet, yet we have an insatiable desire for more.

So why take photographs? What roles do photographs play in our life and relative to other forms of expression or communication? Does a photographer have responsibilities? What is actually involved? And what makes a result successful anyway? We will explore these issues and some of photography’s possibilities over the course of this book, with the understanding that photography is a combination of subjective thought, creative imagination, visual design, technical skills, and practical organizing ability. Begin by taking a broad look at what making photographs is about, to put in to context and perspective your thoughts. On the one hand there is the machinery and the techniques themselves, although try not to become obsessed with the latest bit of equipment or absorbed in the craft detail too soon. On the other you have the variety of approaches to picture making – aiming for results ranging from documenting an event, or communicating ideas to a particular audience, to work which is self-expressive, socially or politically or commercially informed for the family album or perhaps more ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Why photography?

Perhaps you are drawn into photography mainly because it appears to be a quick, convenient and seemingly truthful way of recording something. All the importance lies in the subject itself, and you want to show objectively what it is, or what is going on (a child’s first steps or a scratch on a car for insurance purposes). In this instance photography is thought of as evidence, identification, a kind of diagram of a happening. The camera is your visual notebook.

The opposite attribute of photography is where it is used to manipulate or interpret reality, so that pictures push some ‘angle’, belief or attitude of your own. You set up situations (as in advertising) or choose to photograph some aspect of an event but not others (as in politically biased news reporting). Photography is a powerful medium of persuasion and propaganda. It has that ring of truth when all the time it can make any statement the photographer chooses. Consider the family album for a moment: what pictures are represented here – all of family life or just the good moments?

Another reason for taking up photography is that you want a means of personal self-expression to explore your own ideas, concerns or issue-based themes. It seems odd that something so apparently objective as photography can be used to express, say, issues of desire, identity, race or gender, or metaphor and fantasy. We have all probably seen images ‘in’ other things, like reading meanings into cloud formations shadows or peeling paint. A photograph can intrigue through its posing of questions, keeping the viewer returning to read new things from the image. The way it is presented too may be just as important as the subject matter. Other photographers simply seek out beauty, which they express in their own ‘picturesque’ style, as a conscious work of art.

One of the first attractions of photography for many people is the lure of the equipment itself. All that ingenious modern technology designed to fit hand and eye – there is great appeal in pressing buttons, clicking precision components into place, and collecting and wearing cameras.

Tools are vital, of course, and detailed knowledge about them is absorbing and important, but don’t end up shooting photographs just to test out the machinery. We must not forget either that being a photographer can be seen as a very glamorous job as well – some of the most well-known photographers are those who have taken images of famous people and become famous themselves by association.

Another attractive element is the actual process of photography – the challenge of care and control, and the way this is rewarded by technical excellence and a final object produced by you. Results can be judged and enjoyed for their own intrinsic photographic ‘qualities’, such as superb detail, rich tones and colours. The process gives you the means of ‘capturing your seeing’, making pictures from things around you without having to laboriously draw. The camera is a kind of time machine, which freezes any person, place or situation you choose. It seems to give the user power and purpose.

Yet another characteristic is the simple enjoyment of the visual structuring of photographs. There is real pleasure to be had from designing pictures as such – the ‘geometry’ of lines and shapes, balance of tone, the cropping and framing of scenes – whatever the subject content actually happens to be. So much can be done by a quick change of viewpoint, or choice of a different moment in time.

These are only some of the diverse activities and interests covered by the umbrella term ‘photography’. Several will be blended together in the work of a photographer, or any one market for professional photography. Your present enjoyment in producing pictures may be mainly based on technology, art or communication. And what begins as one area of interest can easily develop into another. As a beginner it is helpful to keep an open mind. Provide yourself with a well-rounded ‘foundation course’ by trying to learn something of all these
elements, preferably through practice but also by looking and reading about the work of other photographers.

Langford Michael, Basic Photography pg 1-2, Pub Focal Press, 2013 Blanchard Road, Suite 402, Burlington, MA 01803, ISBN 13: 978-0-240-52168-8

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Thanks Pandemic

Just over the halfway mark with my solo exhibition, ‘Thanks Pandemic’,

With a busy month ahead of me I’m popping my opening night speech here on my blog along with 22 of the 23 images I exhibited in my current solo exhibition.

Here are the details again:-
Hunt Club Community Arts Centre, 775 Ballarat Road, Deer Park, VIC 3023
Opening hours are 9:30 am to 4:30pm


I begin today by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today.

I would like to thank Brimbank Council for their support, especially all the Staff at the Hunt club community arts centre, including Paulina, Michael, and everyone else who supported and contributed to this exhibition.

The pandemic that swept the world in 2020, is still impacting on many people in many ways, two years later. Prior to the pandemic, I would walk or drive with my cameras to locations I visit often, or see as interesting in passing. Being locked indoors during the Pandemic put an end to all that.

Many people experienced life through a different lens, during the lockdowns. Some feeling challenged others liberated. I too suffered my ups and downs while juggling ‘working from home’ while actually living at home.

One of the positives of all this for me was that I was free to find other ways to flex my creative muscle. I did this by visiting my analogue archive. This archive spans more than 30 years of walking and exploring my home town of Melbourne with a variety of cameras. The last 20 or so years here in the West and Sunshine. I managed to distill this to a handful of images that I hope to offer some insights into how I have watched this city grow and change.  To simplify he process I chose one camera type to make the initial selections. This added to the cohesion of an otherwise disparate set of images, I hope.

Some images more than others stick in your ‘craw’ as you work, this is one of the reasons why I printed these particular photos. In some instances it was the moment itself, in others it was the light, the tonality or some other photographic quality captured by the lens and camera.

These prints are from a loose thread that runs throughout my creative career. The urban landscape and humanity’s attempts at taming it, or at least co-exist with it. Nature has a way of persevering despite our best efforts, wildness lingers and some of these pictures attempt to explore that. Whether we have the desire to allow nature to recalibrate is something we can all hope for.

I don’t remember who said it but it has been suggested that every picture you make with a camera is a self portrait, if this is true then I’m not sure what these pictures say about me. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that point.

Another driving factor in the choice of the final images is, technological. Materials have changed a lot since I bought my first packet of Agfa paper from a US retailer around 1990. These changes have contributed to me revisiting my archive with this in mind and explore other ways making work that I may have felt was not technically feasible all those years ago.

I’d just like to finish with one more thank you.

Lastly my wife for her patience and input and being a steady rock when I needed it the most.

westgate bridge in 1994 or so

All are toned silver gelatin prints 190mm x 190mm.

Here are the details again:-
Hunt Club Community Arts Centre, 775 Ballarat Road, Deer Park, VIC 3023
Opening hours are 9:30 am to 4:30pm

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How I prepare for a physical exhibition?

Prints drying in my darkroom
Silver Geltatin Prints drying in my darkroom

I have been busy the last few days getting my prints ready for my next upcoming exhibition.
The Exhibition entitled ‘Thanks Pandemic’ consists of 24 silver gelatin prints framed and matted.
All up the print finishing took about 12 hours. I don’t recollect how long the actual printing took, as it was done some time ago during several of the lockdowns that Victoria endured from 2020 to 2022.
These lockdowns were the catalyst for me to revisit my archive and print some images that I have always wanted to print. Now with time on my side and changes to materials I was able to produce a series of prints that reflect my skills and knowledge. Basically I like to make work with long tonal scales. This is made possible by using 2 filters under the enlarger, the 00 filter and the 5 filter, from Ilford’s filter pack. Using this technique enables finer control over shadows, midtones and highlights.
After the prints are made they undergo treatment for archival permanence using a 2 bath fixer system and using some dilute selenium toner. In this case it was 1:19 for 3 minutes in the selenium.

My toning setup
My toning setup, I’m using selenium toner 1:19 for 3 minutes

Then into my archival wash tub for one hour. My tub holds 10 prints so I had to undertake this process in 3 batches, 2 at 10 and one at 5 prints. They are then hung to dry in my darkroom.

My archival print washing setup
My archival print washing setup, washed 10 silver gelatin prints at a time

Next I flatten the prints in a warm heat press.
Once they are all flat, I begin the final stages of preparation for matting.

Flattened prints ready for over matting
Flattened prints ready for over matting

This involves making paper corners, 100 in total, then attaching the prints to a backing board that is hinged to the matt. All made using paper archival tape.

Archival paper corners
Archival paper corners, I made 100 of these.

Once the components are assembled the frame is reassembled and the protective corners replaced. Then they are stored ready for transport to the gallery.

A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.
A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.

This body of work is going to use a mixture of frame colours 9 silver 9 off-white and 6 black. How they are how together will be determined once the work is in the space.

All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.
All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.

Upcoming Solo Show

Washing fibre based paper prints in my home made print washer
Washing fibre based paper prints in my home made print washer

I’m having a solo exhibition soon.

Here are the details.

The show is entitled ‘Thanks Pandemic’. The exhibition  consists of 25 silver gelatine prints printed in my darkroom.  It is on display at the Hunt Club Community Arts Centre, 775 Ballarat Road, Deer Park, VIC 3023, from the 7th of October until the 8th of December. An opening celebration will occur on Friday the 7th of October from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

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Instagram or some other platform?

my instagram page on 28-08-2022
my instagram page on 28-08-2022

Recently there had been some consternation regarding Instagram’s user interface changes. There was a concerted effort to drive photography based traffic to other platforms including, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.

I don’t understand why there has not been an overwhelming response to these ideas. Even so, photographers managed to connect and make meaningful work BEFORE Instagram, so why not migrate to another service?

I guess one part of the problem is signal to noise ratio. This is especially difficult if you are new to a service like Tumblr, or Flickr. Personally speaking I have never cracked Tumblr’s algorithm. And while I’m no Flickr super star I certainly have in my “friends list” on Flickr, plenty of good photographers whose work I enjoy all the time.

So how do you find these good photographers? There’s a couple of ways.  Look at someone you know already is a good practitioner. Their contacts and favourites list will point you in the right direction. Also look at the albums they have created, this gives you a quick insight into their thinking about their photography. For example are they just focused on cameras equipment or places, or other more esoteric ideas about what a photo can communicate? Lastly, look at my favourites or someone else’s you know already.

Here’s a short list of photographers; in no particular order. Well actually in the order that they uploaded work to Flickr, while I wrote this post. Also bear in mind I am heavily biased towards, Urban Landscape, and New Topographic styles of photography.

Then there’s groups. These are groups of people whose interest are shared, whether it be subject matter, or genres or some other connective creative tissue. Find a group whose ideas align with yours and then scroll through and find some photographers whose work resonates with you. Follow them and look at who they follow and before you know it you have consumed a large chunk of time and in the process discovered some great photographers and photography.

Here’s a small  list of groups that reflect my own photography interests; again heavily biased towards urban, landscape and street photography.

Either way the social connections that make the web a great place to connect is never more than a few clicks away.

If you decide to give flickr a go let me know and we can connect there too.

*A caveat in these groups I am administrator

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