A Mallee landscape near Mantung, in South Australia.
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.
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.
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.
A rarely experienced moment during the summer months on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula near Waitpinga- dense sea fog:
It happened for a couple of days. It would roll in across the landscape in the late afternoon. Then it disappeared.
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.
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.
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.
The promise of the avant grade in the first third of the twentieth century (Dada and surrealism) was a rupture with the art institution and art's autonomy in a world dominated by the means end rationality of capitalism's exchange value. The avant-garde's attack focused on autonomous art represented by aestheticism as a necessary step in its project to overcome the separation between art and life.
Modernism, as it was usually presented in Australia, was a purely internal artistic phenomenon. Modernism's claims to novelty, negation and non-trivial experimentation in the late 20th century had finally diminished in their impact as they have become exhausted. The avant-garde’s attack on the art institution had failed. The art institution had demonstrates its strength by embracing its attackers and assigning them a prominent place in the pantheon of great artists. Avant-garde categories such as rupture and shock gained admittance to the discourse of art, while at the same time concepts such as harmony and coherence became suspected. The model of heroic transgression against repressive authority has lost its credibility.
It is the art institution, rather than a work’s intrinsic qualities, that defines what counts as art. So artistic genius is not the source of aesthetic value. The art institution only allows a a few photographers inside the gate it guards.
We were driving back to a rust bucket Adelaide from Woomera and Andamooka when I saw this tree in the middle of nowhere. It was the Xmas decorations that caught my eye. The decorative signs humanise the empty landscape--what many see as the dead heart of Australia. Hence the snapshot.