We stayed a couple of days at Salt Creek in the Coorong on our way back from Adelaide from Melbourne so that I could pick up the second part of the edgelands project after a hiatus. I had been working on the Australian abstraction and Fleurieuscapes projects and I wanted to concentrate on the edge lands associated with the River Murray. I wanted to check out whether the Coorong offered any possibilities.
My starting point was a familiar spot that I knew from when I briefly photographed here several years ago, and I was quite happy to return there and begin to photograph in terms of South Australia landscapes. We arrived at Salt Creek in the late afternoon and I checked out the location for a 5x4 shoot whilst we were on a poodle walk in the late afternoon light.
I was thinking of constructing this low lying lying landscape into horizontal strips of land, sea and sky. The lush afternoon light made the image too picturesque, and it placed too much emphasis on natural beauty for the edge lands project. When I photographed the next day with the 5x4 Linhof it was in flat morning light so that this landscape would look more stark and weird.
The Coorong is remote, and it is usually seen as a pristine wilderness to escape to in order to fish, camp, or walk, or commune. This area does have its own rugged beauty that is often overlooked. This rugged beauty can be quite seductive, and it is quite hard to resist photographing it, especially in the lush early morning and late afternoon light. I couldn't resist admiring the assemblage of sun, water, rocks and plants in this part of the Coorong as an aesthetic object.
Romanticism evokes the beauty and sublimity of the natural landscape as a pristine wilderness that is a respite from the horrors of industrial capitalism. Nature becomes, in the Romantic period and af terward, a way of healing what modern society has damaged. Human beings are forlornly alienated from their world. Contact with nature will mend the bridge between subject and object.
Reconciling subject and object comes about by evokes the beauty and sublimity of the natural landscape as a pristine wilderness to to express the profound depth of human subjectivity.The two poles of the Romantic view of nature, the complementary ideals of a sacrosanct external world and a self-sufficient inner experience, have persisted remarkably unchanged down into the present
However, the Coorong is not a pristine wilderness: it's current ecological state has emerged as a result of the interplay of human and nonhuman forces. For instance, it is ecologically damaged by the lack of water from the River Murray flowing into, and mixing with, the sea water. The decrease in fresh water is due to industrialised irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin taking too much water from the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin. The ecological damage to the Coorong will become worse as southern Australia dries out from global warming. Climate change in the form of global warming is a disaster.
How then does art or photography convey a sense of this space and place where everything is interconnected?
The ecologically damaged could be represented by the "weirdness," "uncanniness," "monstrosity," and "strangeness" of the natural as well as human-made objects and environments. This, including the slimy, refers to the excluded remainder of the Romantic conception of nature. Such an bleak approach--a dark ecology if you like--- would help to unsettle any aspirations toward a harmonious or an in-balanced nature that is construed as "over there" or "'over yonder,'" and separate from humans.
Could we not try to let the relational objects speak for themselves, and so help to diminish the significance of our own ephemeral impressions and notions?