Murraylands: a snapshot

I was on my way to Canberra. It was early in the morning and I was  driving through the Murraylands  heading towards  Wellington  to catch the ferry  across the River Murray. The days journey was  to go to Talem Bend, travel  the Mallee Highway, and have an overnight stop at Hay in NSW. I was  hoping to take some photos of the exposed roots of the redgums along the Murrumbidgee for the Edgelands project. 

I was travelling alongside  Lake Alexandrina and it was the light and the colours that caught my eye.  So I  made a cliched 'on the road' photo with my decades old one lens/one camera. It is photography with a rangefinder camera. A spontaneous snapshot with its  trace of the real.  

Whilst making the photo I realised that the Leica rangefinder film camera is basically a relic  in a world of automation and algorithms; in a world where photography is now produced through a mathematical set of rules that work autonomously, without human interference and which are self-correcting. You press the button and the program takes over to produce a data set cheaply and easily.  Perfection.

photographic poetics at the Cotter River

This picture was made whilst I was on a photo trip to the Cotter River when I was in Canberra in mid-2015 whilst on a photoshoot with Judith Crispin:

It was here that I became away that it is  not about the accuracy of  representation  of the optical designs (the way that Leica choose to stay ahead of the competition and carve out a profile of excellence for their image).   Its a move away from   the metaphor of the lens is something we see with (a focusing or fiteringinstrrument), rather than something we look at to being  about the poetics of the situation in the here and now of  making a photo. 

That situation is a junction of acting forces and is in flux, is dynamic, and full of energy.  The poetics is a representation of the intensity and immediacy of our experience of that local moment in the context of the history of  that habitat. 

The Hay Plains

The Hay Plain in NSW is a space that people drive through on their way from Adelaide to Canberra or Sydney. It is treeless with scrubby saltbush, and it is commonly seen by those viewing it through their car windows  as a  flat,  barren, featureless  and bleak space--especially during the day in mid-summer.   I find this space fascinating as it is very atmospheric with the  changing light, clouds and rain.

 Hay is an overnight stop for me on the Adelaide and Canberra trip and I usually stop and take photos. This picture was made on a 2015 trip  to Canberra as I was driving into Hay on the Sturt Highway:   

The light was starting to fade and I only had the time to  quickly make  a couple  of photographs.  I stopped the car and wandered around whilst  the road trains roared past.  I noticed the bits of cotton moving over the  road and along the ground from the  wind and the road trains. I laid down on my stomach on the side of the road and made some snaps before the light went.  

at Adelaide airport

I'd flown into Adelaide from spending several days in Wellington,  New Zealand,  on a photo trip and I was waiting  for Suzanne to pick me  up. She had driven up from Victor Harbor to pick me up, but was running late as she  was battling the afternoon commuter traffic that was going to the southern parts of  the city and beyond to the coast.  

So I filled in the time by making some photos around the  airport.  The light was good. 

I was carrying  several different cameras with me from the trip, so I quickly played around with each of them as the  late autumn light was fading.  This is the Leica version. 

Kywong

This picture was made whilst I was travelling along  the Sturt Highway  from Adelaide to Canberra  for a photo shoot along the Cotter River:

I'd stopped to take some photos of a silo just past Wagga Wagga in NSW with  the 5x7 Cambo monorail. I then wandered around the site and I saw this history of times past  in rural Australia. 

The silos for the storage of grain  prior to rail transport to markets  closed down at the start of the 21st century.  The Kywong  branch line   of the Main Southern Railway line in NSW, which services Wagga Wagga,  closed down in 1975. The closure of the branch lines --eg., the Tocumwal branch line which closed around 1988-- is an indication of the emptying out of rural Australia. 

It's a sad history of broken dreams and landscape and place in the form of place attachment that is concerned with the symbolic meaning in early settler Australia.  Place attachment is the “emotional bonds that form between people and their physical surroundings. These are powerful aspects of human life that inform a  sense of identity, create meaning in the  lives of human beings,  facilitate community and influence action.  

Photography has the  ability to aid and create place attachments. Photography  is also  valuable for  interpreting the erosion of Aboriginal culture form the Australian landscape. The  19th century image-makers document the land as the British  immigrants settled it, thereby   helping create meaning for the settlers and establishes the land as virgin by not effectively including Aboriginals in their narratives.

Photography helped represent  the land as empty and by extension created a culture of ownership, plenitude and expanse   for white settlement and so covered up the destruction of Aboriginal place attachments for the place creation and subsequent attachment of thew white British  settlers.  

 


in the Ballan forest

This image was made in  the Ballan forest, Victoria,  Australia whilst on a photoshoot with Jason Blake and Judith Crispin during the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in 2015.

This photoshoot took place  late in the afternoon, the clouds were coming over  and the light was fading on the floor of the forest. We didn't have that much time to do more than walk around with handheld camera's. All of us had Leica M rangefinders that were loaded with film: colour for me, black and white for Jason and Judith.  

We had arrived at the location  without much time for photography as  it had  taken us quite a while to find the forest that Judith had explored when she was at  Ballarat International Foto Biennale in 2013.  

Judith and Jason then left for Melbourne  (Judith needed to see her publisher for her book on poety and Jason and to return to work). I went back  to the forest the next afternoon with my   Linhof Technika IV   5x4 field camera. I managed to expose  some large format film  before  the light faded and the rain swept in. Then it was a drive back to Adelaide.


 

erosion, Hayborough

This  picture was made whilst I was on  a poodle walk  in the early morning. It was made just after sunrise.

It is coastal erosion along the sand dunes  at Hayborough, a suburb of  Victor Harbor in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.   The erosion along specific parts of coast east and west of Victor Harbor appears to be increasing and the Council is only concerned withe erosion alonhg the towns's foreshore. 

photographic poetics

Just when I'd decided to definitely give up using my venerable  Leica M4-P and 35m colour film,   and make  the definite  shift to the cutting technological edge of  hand held digital imaging, up pops this image.  

It is a simple and nondescript  coastal bush growing along the railway line  and the picture  was made on one of my early morning poodle walks at Hayborough, Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is what is  usually ignored or a disregarded  aspects of the contemporary coastal  landscape that would  be seen as the "unphotographable"  by many contemporary DSLR photographers. 

What popped up  is photography as poetics. Photography in a quiet voice. 

Therein lies the strength of a film Leica ---whether colour or black and white---in today's digital world where  the global trend is to product differentiation and short product cycles in which  companies  reduce costs by re-using as many components as possible.   We have reached a point where different digital cameras and systems converge to the same level of performance,  and the differences that exist are increasingly irrelevant for the average user.  In this world it is the camera's features that become the crucial markers  for the tech journalists ever on the lookout  for the next big thing to write about.    

Photography as poetics points to the mood, feeling and emotion that an image  creates or produces.  This is a revision of the classical Leica ethos  of a camera  designed to  record daily events as a visual memory: thirty-six memories on one roll of film that are an honest and detailed record of the world.