Walking & Photography [Online Exhibition]

screengrab from the exhibtion organsied by Gary Sauer-Thompson
screengrab from the exhibtion organsied by Gary Sauer-Thompson

The response to the pandemic in the arts industry has been overwhelmingly positive. SALA is running its entire festival through artists websites this year. I have been very fortunate in that Gary Sauer-Thompson via his studio in Encounter Bay invited me to exhibit with an idea that explored the pandemic. The online exhibition is entitled, ‘Walking/Photography’, its premise is simple:-

“The exhibition explores the interrelationships between these two modes of being-in-the-world. The ethos is to go for a walk in your local area, where you can find what you don’t know you are looking for. It is a step into the photographic unknown that uncovers the forgotten or buried history of the area.”

The ‘exhibtion’ opens on the 1st of August and runs until the 30th of September.

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Walking in the fog

A fog shrouded bike path with signs indicating flooding
A fog shrouded bike path with signs indicating flooding, I walked here on Friday to exploit the uncommon weather.

As part of my ongoing pc3020 project, I left the house early enough to spend some quality time along my favourite walking path. I walked for nearly 2 hours along the Kororoit creek path. The sights and sounds were eerie. I passed several walkers a  jogger and a bicyclist. I even managed to notice some new features of land abutting the track. This I found surprising as I have walked here regularly since moving to Sunshine in 2000.

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North Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2020-07-05 13:30:42

Melbourne is undergoing several major infrastructure projects right now. The West Gate Tunnel,  The Metro Tunnel, and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link to name just three.  All of them impact on the roads and environment I use and photograph regularly. This crossing on Dynon road has been added for cyclists to use to cross the road. The bike path and associated underground tunnel has been closed while construction work is underway.

I spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon walking from Arden street to Dynon road and back following Moonee Ponds Creek. I shot about 1 and a half rolls of 120 film and about 50 or so digital pictures. The light was very good as it often is this time of year. The light was the  main impetus for me going out to begin with. Having driven past a few times I had noticed some changes. In particular the 2 new bridges built for pedestrians and cyclists. I wanted to capture the state of things as they are. They will I’m sure revert to some form of their original state once the projects are completed.

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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 2000s. 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.

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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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