Appearances

This is a photo of a section of a tin wall in  Myers Lane in Adelaide's CBD. 

This wall was just opposite where I used to live in the city, which  was in the process of change during the shift from  an industrial to a postindustrial or information capitalism. Our  image culture changes into a digital culture with this shift.  This  was a time of rapid technological change, due to the emergence of digital technologies, such as the computer,  the mobile phone,  the internet as a information superhighway,  computer generated imagery,  video surveillance in the shopping mall and the high tech Desert Storm of the Gulf War.       

This is a photography of appearances, of the look of things, the ephemeral, the particular. It is an older way of seeing  that is being dislodged by the post-photographic tendency in a digital culture  to  devalue and deny the representation of appearances and sight in favour of the emancipation of the image from its empirical moorings. 

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. 

the post photographic

The post-photography emerged  in the late 1980s as a result of the emergence of digital technology.  

Digital technology has allowed for the image to be severed from its referent,  re-contextualized and re-presented. The theory goes that notions of representational truth in photography have well and truly been destroyed in light of technology that recasts the image as a fluid entity. The emergence of new digital technologies has undercut our  trust in the photograph, which  more than any other kind of image as faithfully documenting the reality of the material world.  We have relied on it to describe places, to prove things existed, and to recall the memorable. This confidence we have warranted in traditional  photography, was  irrecoverably shattered by the emergence of new digital technologies --hence the concern over the ‘loss of the real’. 

However it was not the digital camera that gave birth to the post-photographic, it was the scanner as digital cameras have only become sophisticated enough to be taken seriously in the last decade. In the 1990s  scanners were generally used to digitize portions of chemically processed images that were then manipulated and assembled in Photoshop. The combination of this hardware and software meant that artists were almost forced to supplement montage for traditional straight photography that depended upon the indexical power of photos. It is this  technology and workflow,  and not digital photography per se, that  was the condition for the emergence of  the post-photographic.

Australian Gothic

I've started going though the archives on the hard drive of the Mac-Pro  in the studio to see what I was photographing  when I was using  the Leica. I'm looking back  to see if it was  just  snaps or did I start exploring themes? 

Sadly, most of the images look like happy snaps. The pictorial equivalent of the readymade characterised by unpretentious snapshot effects, documentary value, and deadpan anti aesthetic qualities.    They were not the result of a deliberate abnegation of authorial control in favor of chance, accident, and automatism. 

This picture of a window in Clunes, Victoria, circa 2009 is an exception. It's darker than most of the pictures--and  it expresses a  darker side of the senses and imagination than Australia's blue skies and bright clear light: 

It  represents the experiences  caused by unresolved loss, commonly known as a state of mourning. Mourning refers to what has  passed away, leaving  us with only images. It refers to the trauma that loss evokes--in this picture  the loss of the  way of life of the country towns in regional Australia. 

Historically,   Australia was represented and imagined  by explorers and cartographers  as a grotesque space, a land peopled by monsters. It was a place of darkness and convicts.  Its sense of disorientation and complete isolation from the civilised European world was unnerving. The Antipodes were  held to be a dark and evil place, an unconquered territory overbrimming with dangerous secrets.

the rangefinder experience

For photographers, the digital revolution began in earnest in the early years of the 21st century. This disruption resulted in cameras transitioning from optical and mechanical devices used to expose film to light, to imaging computers that convert light into electrical charges, which are then processed into digital information. 

 Digital makes  photography so much easier. Digital post-production was a  game changer,   since  good software could suddenly fix a lot of issues and anomalies far more cheaply, and in many cases better, than hardware could manage. The emphasis in digital  was on  resolution--- as if resolution is going to provide the content of the picture.  

With the digital revolution the use of Leica's film rangefinders  was reduced to an even smaller  segment of the market than it had been during  the SLR  film days,  and this resulted in Leica facing  the oblivion of bankruptcy.    It looked as if the rangefinder experience ---the camera was small and light,  its shutter was quieter, it was easy to focus in low light,  and it  attracted far less attention from people on the street--could well belong to  photographic history.   

That rangefinder finder experience shapes  how I look at modern digital cameras. I am looking for one that inherits, and builds on, the rangefinder legacy-- rather the SLR tradition.  The rangefinder  legacy -small, unobtrusive, well-designed, modern in concept, affordable, and offering a high quality user experience--- wasn't really  being made, and so there  isn't a new and modern way to pursue rangefinder photography in the digital era.  Leica's digital rangefinders were not affordable. 

hanging in

Digital technology offered a number  of advantages.  It equalled the image quality of 35m film,   it was far more convenient re work flow,  and  it was  far more  cost  effective to use  to making photos on a daily basis. The downside of digital technology is the limited lifespan or built in obsolescence of  the camera body.   These are akin to computers--you can get 3-5 years wear and tear and that is it.  Unlike  the  bodies  of film cameras the bodies of digital cameras are not built to last.   I continued  to use the  Leica M4-P. 

However, since digital  technology  allowed me  to take lots of snapshot photos regularly,  using  a  Sony NEX-7 mirrorless camera  that I could use with my Leica lenses allowed me to use my  snapshot photography to experiment,   play around and  to scope for the large format film photography.   

about street art

Every piece of street art is temporary. It exists on a  wall for a while then disappears. All that remains are photos that circulate the Internet. It is an example of the precarious in art that signifies a transient, uncertain, state  that is in contrast to established or stable ones.  The ephemeral nature of street art  acts to defy or subvert traditional views of  fine art.   

Thankfully, street art is no longer  seen as vandalism of private property.  Its visual creativity, which is   increasingly being  infused with graphic design, is now recognised to have  emerged  from outside the establishment of  the contemporary art institution. 

CDH in Paint Wars: Graffiti v street art  says that there has been an ever widening gap between street art and graffiti; graffiti has remained oppositional while street art has drifted to become the most mainstream contemporary art practice.

This position holds that street art is increasingly populated with artists whose ambitions are to secure good gallery representation, whilst  graffiti culture has no such aspiration.

CDH's argument is that commercial street art heavily trades on the street cred of the outlaw persona that accompanies it, but writing largely paid the price for this credibility. Writers are the ones breaking into train yards and going to prison, while street artists are putting up legal murals or token stencils in back laneways and occasionally having their work buffed. 

street art opens up new spaces

Adelaide has very few recent urban ruins.  So this does not provide a  fruitful way to explore the past  and the present caused by economic downturn, natural disasters,  environmental accidents, or a rustbelt city's decline.  What it does have is a lot of nineteenth century heritage buildings that stand empty. It is these building that many use to frame  Adelaide   as backward because it rejected “progress" in the form of   post-war architectural internationalism.  Preserving  the old is seen to be  condemning the city to stagnation. 

Adelaide's decaying buildings and empty urban  lots that have been marked by street artists, such as Jules:  

In spite of the the zero tolerance policy of the early 2000s to steet art these sites of architectural decay are empty spaces or vacant lots  often  became a fluid  open air gallery walls for street artists.   In these places in our cities, often  unloved, the street art transforms and creates meaning where perhaps none existed before. This kind of  transitory street art is quite different from the monochromatic tags that appear overnight on your wall or fence  or the practice of capping (ie., disrespectfully defaced works by prominent street artists).