beyond the Red Centre

In the nineteenth century the colonial narrative represented Central Australia  negatively--it was a  dangerous and hostile environment. It was the Australian Outback, and  this was represented as  being without economic potential a dead heart,  arid and waterless,  as a space of the 'other', 

In the  late 20th Australia represents Central Australia  is seen positively. It becomes  the Red Centre, a major desert tourist destination in the Northern Territory.  The Red Centre in the tourist marketing brochures is the welcoming heart, the place of cultural significance, the site of the 'real' Australia, a site of unchanging beauty.

The tourist conception  of the Red Centre primarily refers to  Uluru, Kata Tjuta,   Simpsons Gap, Glen Helen Gorge,  Kings Canyon etc and the promotional images are those of a decorative pictoralism.  The Tanami  desert, which lies beyond the region of Australian  Tourism's  Red Centre, remains a space of the 'other': an empty land  without a trace of culture.    

The Tanami, as this snap of the landscape at Hooker Creek  indicates,   is not an empty land.  It is the space marked by the foundation of settler society and the dispossession of indigeous peoples, the intersection of  indigenous and settler cultures,  and the site of indigenous painting of country as a contemporary art form. There is a form of forgetting or disremembering by settler Australians associated with how they understood the history of their nation. 

The snapshot tradition

The pictures made with the film Leica are snapshots and, and as such, they belong to the tradition of the snapshot image culture. Traditionally, snapshot photography is  one in which the images  are almost always produced for and circulated within,  the private realm, and its meaning and significance are  imbedded in individual and rarely rational affective responses. 

The snapshot  tradition has been interpreted as a form of vernacular photography,  and  this culture  is usually interpreted as  pictures made by everyday  folk about their everyday life;  or more specifically,   "the unself-conscious efforts of common people . . . to create satisfying patterns in the realities of everyday life. 

This results in a gap between the unruly vernacular culture and the modernist,  hermeticizing discourse  of the art institution, with its emphasis on autonomy, authorship, uniqueness and universality.   

 This vernacular culture insists on lived experience, or a rhetoric of authenticity, works within specific social and cultural conventions, and emphasises personal narrative. For most of us, snapshots mean something because they preserve a memory, capture a moment, or depict a friend, family member or loved one. -These are the  same themes that Kodak promoted for decades. From a personal point of view the significance of snapshot aesthetics often revolves around what we see and feel when viewing snapshots, rather than what they mean to art historians, curators, and collectors.  

playground, Andamooka

A picture of the past. A  picture of life in a frontier mining world of Andamooka. 

It's not much of a backyard or  playground is it, at the foot of the  opal mine tailings.  My memory of Andamooka is that the dust  from the mine tailings was everywhere, layered over everything. It was hot and the atmosphere was arid.  

What this photo from the archives does is bring the past--that has been---into the present.    In offering  an image of the past it opens  up history, allowing us to see the past---what  once was; allowing us an insight into the lives that were lived in a frontier mining town; allowing us to imagine a life lived among the dust from  the mine tailings next to the traditional tin houses of old.    

It's a  remnant of the town's past --a different remnant  to  the raditional dugout style houses of old that was  pictured in the previous post. 

miners hut, Andamooka

This picture of  an  opal miners hut  at Andamooka in South Australia, which  is from  my film archives ---  an example of  ordinariness or a deadpan aesthetic that was made whilst  travelling on the margins of modernity.

Like the previous images  the picture was  made with a Leica M4-P, with a 50mm  f.2 Summicron lens and Kodak 400ASA film.   As previously mentioned in an earlier post  I discovered a roll of film I'd exposed whilst I was  visiting  Andamooka circa 2004-5.   My film work at the time--35mm and medium format--- was usually developed and scanned by a pro-lab, but for some reason this roll hadn't been scanned.  This was  several years prior to  buying my first  digital camera. I had no knowledge of digital cameras. 

B.Construction, Andamooka

From the  film archives.  

This  is another  image that I came across when I was going through my film archives. A public sculpture at Andamooka in South Australia. The picture was  made with a Leica M4-P,  a 50mm  f.2 Summicron lens and Kodak 400ASA film:

 As I mentioned in an earlier post I  discovered a roll of film I'd exposed whilst I was  visiting  Andamooka circa 2004-5   My film work at the time--35mm and medium format--- was usually developed and scanned by a pro-lab, but for some reason this roll hadn't been scanned.  This was  several years prior to  buying my first  digital camera.

Andamooka grave

From the archives.  

A miner's grave at Andamooka in South Australia made with a Leica M4-P,  a 50mm  f.2 Summicron lens and Kodak 400ASA film:

 I only came across this image when I was going through my film archives. I discovered a roll of film I'd exposed whilst I was  visiting  Andamooka circa 2004-5   My film work at the time--35mm and medium format--- was usually developed and scanned by a pro-lab, but for some reason this roll hadn't been scanned.  This was  several years prior to  buying my first  digital camera.

Tullah, Tasmania

The picture below   is an  archival image from the time when I'd just  picked up  film photography again after a 20 year break.  The image was made whilst Suzanne and I were travelling in Tasmania on a holiday  with our standards poodles (Agtet and Ari) in the 1st decade of the 21st century---it was  in late 2006 judging from these  posts on my old Junk for Code blog. 

This was our first trip to Tasmania,  and we were travelling down on the west coast of Tasmania at the time.  There'd been a fire in the hills in the hills around  Tullah,  Lake Rosebery and the MacIntosh Dam.  So I took some photos.  I was rusty judging from the fact that most of the  black and white negatives  from this trip were badly underexposed. 

The camera I was using then was  my old  Leica M4 with an old  Summicron 50mm lens and Tri-X film. The picture  was made  before I'd shifted to using colour film and  Mac computers.  The film was developed  and scanned by a pro lab and it was scanned as a jpeg--a low res scan.   

I didn't know what a  low res scan meant then. I knew nothing about the shift to digital that had been taking place in photography since the 1990s.  I 'd just picked up from where I'd left  photography  20 years earlier- I  was more or less naively starting over again  but without a wet darkroom.  

summer light

This picture of roadside vegetation  was made whilst  I was walking along  a back country road in Waitpinga, on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. It was in the late  summer in 2016 and  I was on an early morning   poodlewalk  with the standard poodles. 

I was forcing myself to take photos of trees and the agricultural landscape around me so as  to keep my  photographic eye hand in. This was the area/locality  in which I now live,  so how can I photograph it? I recall that I didn't have the confidence to  set things up to  do tripod based photography. 

Though film has quickly gone  poof (poor Kodak) as the medium of choice   for photographers,  I am part of that 'bridge generation' between film and digital. Digital, including rangefinder digital,   is simply easier, faster and immediate since the camera  is really a portable computer (with a sets of options,) and a sensor and  lens.   My technique is far slower and more measured with film.  

My doubts  about 35mm film photography are beginning to ease.  I can see that there is still some life in 35mm film photography,  in that  it has a different quality to the digital version.  But it is only for some subject matter, as I'm beginning to discover.  Unfortunately, I cannot predict which one.  

That  filmic quality is hard to pinpoint,  but it  has something along the lines of  providing a more emotional response to what is photographed, as distinct from a technically perfect image that can be quite bland.   Digital images are  unfilm like and so perfect that camera software manufacturers are now adding  adding "grain" enhancement plugins.