During the Covid-19 lockdown: Encounter Bay

During these  days of the Covid-19 lockdown I often see solitary  figures  walking along the  Encounter Bay beach before sunrise. People are  out and about walking from about an hour before sunrise, which in late autumn is  around 7am Central Australian time.  

These early morning walkers  do keep to the social distancing measures when they meet others during what is known as the “recovery period”--the  easing of the lockdown measures. these are  now being  coded as a "snap back" to economic growth with a publicly subsidised gas-led recovery.    Business-as-usual. 

 This concern with ensuring social distancing  is in contrast  to  many in the local shopping centres during the day who act as if the pandemic  is all over,  and that life is now back to normal. They assume that  because the infections are going down, then the pandemic  is over. They do not act as if there is a possibility of  a second wave coming due to increasing community transmission of the virus from the easing of the lockdown restrictions to 'get the economy moving' and people back in work. It appears that people's resolve to keep to social distancing outside the home is weakening.

Photography during the lockdown

The Mallee Routes project is on hold during  the public health lockdown to stop the spread of  the Covid-19 virus amongst the Australia population. The  public health social restrictions  during lockdown  require  that we can only travel within our postcode for exercise.  There may be some lifting of restrictions in a week or so by the federal and state governments,  as the former is anxious to get the economy moving.  

So I have started to explore photographing the period of lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing;  as distinct from continuing to make various types of locally based  photos during the lockdown; or making film photos  for an online exhibition of film photos made during the lockdown  being organized by  the Friends of Photography Group (FOPG). Photographing the period of lockdown is  about our  experiences of lockdown.  This is a unique time  and photography can, and should be,  a part of pausing  and reflecting  upon our relationship with our surroundings.

The exploration is experimental in that there has been a  shift away from a conventional documentary approach. This  means that  I am    stepping outside my comfort zone. I have been thinking about photographing  in a more controlled way by working wth people in a set up situation in specific locations.  As I do not have a treasure trove or storehouse of props to use  in these situations,  my  approach  will need  to be very  simple.    


The  b+w  picture below is of roadside vegetation in Waitpinga on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula. It  is from the archives,  and  it was made with a large format camera--a 1950's  Super Cambo 8x10 monorail. 

I used this  picture of the local landscape as my contribution to the online print viewing/sharing of the Melbourne based Friends of Photography Group (FOPG). I've linked up  with FOPG due to my isolation  as a large format photographer in Adelaide.  There are very few people doing this kind of slow photography in Adelaide, and I have little connection to, or empathy with,  the few that  are.  I decided to  share some of my photos I've made  of the local landscape in  Encounter Bay/Waitpinga  with FOPG,  since  most of the photography the members of  FOPG do  is orientated towards the genre of  landscape.    

I am on the fringe  of FOPG due to living in Adelaide. It's not practical  for me  to attend their face-to-face print viewing sessions in Melbourne, but I  did plan to go their field trip to Apollo Bay and the Otway Ranges in April. Unfortunately,  that field trip was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I plan to submit a photo of the  Waitpinga  landscape from those that  I have been making during the lockdown to their upcoming online exhibition.  

Reading: rethinking mimesis

I am currently using my stay at home time during the Covid-19 pandemic to do some reading. At the moment I am  working through  the Adorno on Mimesis in Aesthetic Theory article by Amresh Sinha at the School of Visual Arts in New York,  plus  other texts in relation to  this subject matter that I have come across whilst writing this blog post.   The photos of the sculpture trail on Granite Island in this post link back  to this earlier post. This reading is research  for an essay for the third road-trip section  of the  Bowden Archive and Other Marginalia book that I am currently working on. 

The essay is a defence  of realism  at a time when the anti-naturalist cast of much modern aesthetics (eg., modernism and postmodernism) was the dominant aesthetic in the art institution.  Since the Bowden photos are part of  a realistic aesthetic I have been looking for a way around the modernist/postmodernist  reduction  of realism to a  simple copy, reflection  or mirroring of reality,  and the subsequent dismissal of realism as an outmoded, obsolete  aesthetic. A realist aesthetic also underpins photographs of nature in its different forms which have also been sidelined by the art institution. 

Mimesis in relation to art or aesthetics  is  a difficult concept to grasp as well as being an  elusive one. It is a concept that I have struggled to understand with respect to expression in modern art. Traditionally ( ie., in Plato's Republic)  mimesis has been used to describe the relation between an original object and a representation that attempts to imitate that original,  and in doing so  produces a kind of pseudo-reality--a mirage (a counterfeit reality) that  may deceive.   I understood  that mimesis  refers to a  “cognitivist” account of art  that was coupled to  classical ideals of truth-telling, which in modernity had been replaced  by romantic concerns with self-expression and originality, which  underpinned  the American style formalist modernism celebrated by the Museum of Modern Art in the 1970s-1990s.     

What I have grasped so far is that the root of mimesis is imitation (of nature as object) and artistic representation,  and that it refers to a tactile experience of the world.   Aristotle rejects  the Platonic conception of mimetic transparency,  and in his Poetics  mimesis is held to be a fundamental expression of our human experience  within the world. Aristotle links it to children’s mimetic behavior (make-believe or play-acting) and to animals. Mimesis is a natural human propensity toward imaginative enactment of hypothetical realities, with a concomitant pleasure in learning and understanding  from mimetic activity. 

Rather than being imitation in the sense of a copy,  mimesis has a productive dimension (poiesis).The  notion of mimesis interpreted as poiesis—as a world-creating activity, opens up  the possibilities of the real within the imaginary. Mimesis is a way of doin,- a bringing forth of actions, a bringing to light, bring forth a creative action that is unified within itself.  Images, poetically arranged, generate and open up a sense or experience of a world. Moreover, it  is in poetic structures, not in their authors, that Aristotle locates the cognitive value of poetry, whilst his concept of mimesis, in the Poetics and elsewhere, entails the interlocking functioning of three elements— pleasure, understanding, and emotion.


ambling on the Kepler Track

When I was recently in NZ on a photo trip and a holiday I spent a day walking along the Kepler Track whilst Suzanne went on a day trip to Doubtful Sound. We were staying at an Air BnB at Lake Manapouri overlooking the Waiau River. I wanted to spend a day ambling along  the Kepler Track just taking photos,  in contrast to my usual urban drifting; or taking the odd  quick snap whilst walking quickly and purposefully to reach  a specific destination by a certain time. 

On my previous visits to New Zealand I didn't have the camera equipment to make photographs when I was walking in the forest without using a tripod. I travel overseas without a tripod,  and so  all the photography on these photo trips had to be hand held.  Though the film in  my film cameras  was good enough to photograph hand held  in urban areas,  the dynamic range of film was too limited to allow me  to photograph  hand held in the deep shadows of a beech forest. 

The  Sony digital camera  --a Sony a7 R111---that I had  for  this  trip did have the capacity to enable me to photograph hand held in low light. I was working from experience here and here. So the technological  problem had been solved.