Thoughtfactory’s image-text blog

an experimental image-text blog based in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia

Petrel Cove: am

This seascape is Petrel Cove in the early morning. It is part of the Fleurieuscapes  project that I have been working on  since we shifted to living at Victor Harbor. 

The picture  was made when I  had returned to  the car after a  poodle walk  along Deps Beach with Ari and Kayla. I was taken by the softness and the quality of the light. 

The sea is a big part of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula ---playing on the beach, fishing, surfing etc-- and I struggle to find  a way to photograph  it. How do you do it? It's a slow working it out and hoping that an opening will eventuate. The opening would be  a photograph that's a doorway that is photographically interesting.

The classic seaside/beach photography project is  Joel Meyerowitz's  1979 book Cape Light: a book of  colour photographs of the seaside resort of Provincetown, Cape Cod and its soft natural light  made in the summer of 1976 with an 8x10. It is  considered a classic work of colour photography and the  8 x 10  camera meant  that his  stance  towards  summer cottages and ice cream shops  was both one of patience and meditative.  The images are  in and around his house in Cape Cod and  the mood is one of languid, forever-long summer days. These are not really colorised or pumped up. 

The art photography background to  Cape Light  is that  Joel Meyerowitz,  and Stephen Shore, and William Eggleston,are  widely acknowledged as the early masters of color photography in the United States. Their pioneering use of color in the 1970s was a bold departure from the long established tradition of black and white photography, which had dominated the medium from its inception, and  their work ---the American vernacular of gas stations, motels, suburban backyards, diners and small towns---  laid the foundations for contemporary photography today.  Serious art photographers held color in low esteem, seeing it as the language of the family snapshot, the tourist postcard or the consumer advertisement. 

The series, called Bay Sky  that emerged out of  Cape Light, references  the impressionist paintings by Monet and Cézanne.  The photograph's  had been made  in and around Meyerowitz's house in Provincetown Cape Cod. The pictures consist simply of water below, sky above; in some, details like a beached sailboard or a sandbar appear at the edges of the frame.  The framing remains essentially unaltered, while the moment when the scene is registered on the film always changes. This way focus moves from represented space, always the same, to the effects of the temporal variable on it. The colors continuously change as time passes by and give rise to  the subtle shifts in mood that the changing light of the passing day or of different atmospheric effects can produce.

In his pictures something always happens-- often something unimportant, such as the sudden appearing of the extraordinary light, or the the ephemeral moment as it was disappearing. In the Bay Sky  series there is the border between the beach between land and sea, the twilight between night and day and looking into the darkness. Many of the pictures are about big space, almost the line between the sea and the sky, where there would be tiny figures in this big empty as could be  made. The danger here is that salmon-pink dawns or dramatic nighttime shots of moonlight on water, often  verge towards  classy calendar photos.