In 1998, as part of a larger and very personal quest I flew to Whyalla, in South Australia. I carried a lot of camera gear with me, so much so I was charged excess baggage on the return flight home. I flew all the way to Whyalla via Adelaide and collected a rental car there. I spent a few days exploring the area, and shot a lot of colour negative film. I remember the skies really being dramatic. I tried, in vain to capture this. I used a caravan park in Whyalla as a base and would spend all day out driving and exploring the area. I believe I got as far south as Franklin Harbour.
As I begin scanning my archive I was reminded of this trip. It was the era before the internet burst into the public consciousness. So no blogging, cloud based notes or smartphone to jot down pictorial notes. I vaguely recall borrowing a laptop from work, to write with I assume, but at this stage can only find meagre scribblings in my journals of the era.
It seems I shot about 22 rolls of 120 film on this journey, I’ve yet to count or find the black and white, either 5×4 or roll film. Of these I have edited down to about 20. Despite the problems I encountered processing the film there are still a a handful of images that resonate with me. I have yet to find the 5×4 film I shot on this trip and the one preceding it, in or about 1996 or 1997.
I plan on uploading a gallery of the colour images soon.
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?’ 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Next I flatten the prints in a warm heat press.
Once they are all flat, I begin the final stages of preparation for 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.
Once the components are assembled the frame is reassembled and the protective corners replaced. Then they are stored ready for transport to the gallery.
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.