A critical climate aesthetics

Over the last decade, scientists and humanists have renamed our current geological era the “Anthropocene” in recognition of the profound impact that human activities have had upon the earth’s crust and atmosphere. The move would equate humanity with geological forces like glaciers, volcanoes, and meteors and it suggests that a sharp division between nature and culture or technology is no longer tenable.We are looking what the French historian Ferdinand Braudel  called the  longue duree.

Dr. Joelle Gergis' The Sunburn Country The History and Future of Climate Change in Australia' argues that the scientific evidence shows that Australia is now starting to move out of the realm of natural variability that we've  seen in the recent geologic past. The Australasian region is warming and our fingerprints are all over that signal. All of our weather and climate is now occurring on the background of a warming planet. The challenge is opportunity in terms of really transforming our society into a sustainable one  on the planet rather than a destructive one that is making our planet quite unsafe. 

The growing sense of urgency surrounding climate change  has generated a dialogue among artists, critics and theorisers  reading the role of art in this contemporary crisis.The Cape Farewell project and the Canary Project are  well known examples.  The Art + Climate Change festival  is an Australian example.  

A critical climate aesthetics seeks to take account of the changing aesthetic horizons afforded by climate change and to interrogate the consequences of those changes for our understanding of the relations between aesthetics and politics, morality and epistemology. Action needs to be taken to slow  the worst impacts---the longer-term trend in decline in rainfall  and the  conditions became too hot and  it becomes unviable to actually farm under these conditions.  The consequences of those changes for an Australia that  hots up are dire  since Australia is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change--witness the loss of 50 per cent of  the Great Barrier Reef. 

So how can traditional representational media such as photography thematize climate change? I need to try and sort this out as this theme  forms part of the Unknown Futures section of the Mallee Routes project.  

processing 8x10 b+ w

With autumn arriving in South Australia  I have  started  to pick up my large format black and white view camera photography, especially the 8x10 Cambo monorail.  

The conditions are right: overcast skies, little wind and softer  light. Well, these conditions  lasted for a few days before  a cold, gusty  south westerly wind swept across  the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula.  

This kind of  large format view camera photography  has been in the background as I do not have a darkroom at the studio;  nor do I have access to one in Adelaide now that the Analogue Lab has closed.  My last session of processing sheet film was done in Melbourne in 2018,  using Stuart Murdoch's darkroom! 

black and white

I have struggled post-processing  this tree or scrub  on the Heysen Trail in Waitpinga. It had lots of promise  for a black and white image when I came across it whilst walking the poodles   late one  afternoon.  That was over a year ago now,  and it was when Suzanne was walking the last stages of the Heysen Trail. 

I recall  that  it was on  this occasion  when I was crouched amongst the pink gums  setting up the camera that I began to realise that what is called  the scrub or bush in Australia is actually a number of  very different bioregions;  and that we really do need to move beyond an undifferentiated, colonial sense of “the bush” as an amorphous sameness.

still life: seaweed

This is an image that came about from playing around in the early morning light on Dep's Beach. This  beach is between Petrel Cove and Kings Beach.  I was on a poodlewalk with Kayla at the time:

It's another macro image building on this beginning.  

Unfortunately for me the photo session ended abruptly as Kayla grabbed the seaweed  when I wasn't looking,  ran off with it and  then tore  it to pieces. 


 

two studies

I have been struggling with a bursitis shoulder over the Xmas break  and, as a result,  the photography  has been minimal. It has been limited to what I could do on the morning and evening poodlewalks along the coast. I avoided walking in the bush due to the brown snakes. As I could only carry and use light weight  cameras, the  photography has consisted mostly  of macro with  some  scoping for large format photosessions in the future.  

This macro of quartz on the side of a granite outcrop, which  was made  with my  old  Sony NEX-7, an old Lecia Summicron 35mm lens and  a  Voigtlander VM/E Close Focus Adaptor, raises a question:  could I make a 5 x4 version using a telephoto lens?

I am asking this because over the Xmas break I have been looking at some of  the seaweed photos made by Peter Dombrovskis, which are in the  Dombrovskis: Journeys into the Wild, exhibition at  the National Library of Australia (NLA). The kelp photos are stunning. Likewise the granite  the  sandstone and the quartz studies. These are wide angle views,  close ups and low-contrast light.  This collection is  wilderness imagery with a sense of sublime terror with its roots in  the nineteenth century. This body of work is definitely not nostalgic kitsch, an idealising  falsehood, or an eco-porn generating desire for touristic or vicarious consumption.   Nor is it premised on an equivalency between visible and unseen worlds.

place-making

Place-making is usually associated with urban design in the sense of it being a community-driven process for designing public spaces (streets, sidewalks, plazas, squares, campuses, parks, and so on) that are mixed use, host a variety of activities for diverse audiences, and are well-connected to the larger city or town. The overall aim is to strengthen the local community  

Place-making is what the Victor Harbor Council is doing with its upgrade and renovation  to Ocean Street to counter the decline of the local shops along the town's  main street as a result of  shopping  shifting to the Woolworths mall named Victor Central.  This placemaking is making main street more attractive to tourists --building the city brand  through  revitalising the town and increasing  its  liveablity.  

However, place making is also possible through stories, art works,  or photos.    These representations  are what express the importance of the place for the self or help to develop a sense of place. The arts  place us in time, space, and community in ways that encourage us to be fully and imaginatively present in a variety of contexts: the natural world, our homes, our worshiping communities, and society.

macro revisited

In the light of the considerations in  this  previous post   about the limitations of the Sony a7 R111 and the point and shoot Olympus XZ-1  I went ahead and ordered the  Voigtlander VM/E Close Focus Adapter. As mentioned in the earlier post, this adaptor enables me  to use  my Leica M lenses on the  old Sony NEX 7, thereby giving me with the capability to do macro photography  whilst I am on  the  poodlewalks.  

 I  used a Summicron 35m f.2 lens that was on my old Leica M4, and so I was able to put together a macro camera without outlaying too much money.   I had purchased the M4 in Melbourne in  the 1970s, but it  is badly damaged and not functional.  

macro

The advantage  of using the Sony a7 R111 with a 35mm Leica M lens and a Novoflex adaptor on the  poodlewalks is that I can photograph handheld in low light situations. The high ISO capability is something that I needed not all the tech  features as I use the camera in manual mode, as if it were a film camera.  It was still photography not video that I was interested in,  since video requires  expensive editing  software and it is a whole other world.  

The disadvantage of the Sony with a Lecia M lens is that I cannot do closeups of the objects that I see when walking along the beach or amongst the granite rocks.  I find this  frustrating as a lot of what I find  interesting along the littoral zone these walks  is in the detail. Photographing the detail   requires using a macro lens, which I do not have.  Up to now I use an old compact digital camera (the  Olympus XZ-1),  but I find the small sensor (10 megapixels) too limiting in terms of dynamic range,  tonality and  for post processing. 

So I have decided to use my old Sony NEX 7 camera that is sitting in a cupboard with a Voigtlander VM/E Close Focus Adapter, which   allows me to use  my Leica M lenses on both full frame & APS-C  Sony E Mount Cameras. I have just ordered the adaptor  from Mainline Photographics in Sydney.  It's a basic digital camera but this  combination provides me with the capability to do some handheld macro photography in soft light using a Leica M lens.

digital b+w

This is another in my low key and sporadic  experiments in  converting a digital colour file  made with a digital camera into a black and white image: 

The image of these granite rocks at Kings Head in Waitpinga  is soft and gentle,  but  it still has some tonality. What surprises me is that it is not  the usual muddy grey that normally  happens  when I have made  these kind of conversions from the digital  file produced by  my  older digital camera --a Sony NEX-7. 

I have found that the recently acquired Sony a7R111 is  much better in terms of producing a richer black and white tonality.  

scanning 5x7 colour negatives

I have an old 5x7 Cambo monorail view camera which I love using because of  its format, its lightness and mobility.     Unfortunately, I rarely  use it these last couple of years.  I did, however,  use it to expose  the last of the 5x7 Kodak Portra 160ASA sheet film that had sitting in the  fridge. This  happened was when I was in Swan Hill for the Mallee Routes exhibition at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in 2018.   

This is the location photo of the early morning photo session at Pental Island. 

The reason for the infrequent use of the 5x7 monorail  is due to scanning problems, not the camera, and they arise because   I don't  have any  5x7 film holders to scan the colour negatives with. This is  due to the  Epson V700 flatbed scanner coming  with film holders  only up to 5x4. There are no  5x7 or 10x8 film holders.  Soup to now  I have been placing the colour negatives directly on the scanner's glass bottom and then scanning the negatives using the Epson area guide.   

The  scanning problems I encountered are  Newton rings and intense cyan images. The results are terrible,  and they are difficult, if not impossible to fix in Lightroom, for  many of the images. I have spent hours on the computer trying to produce a decent digital file.