The Mallee project

The  Mallee group of photographers meet for lunch today at the Ramsgate Hotel in Henley Beach, Adelaide   to discuss the exhibition schedules of their lens-based photography work about the Mallee.  The Mallee photography group is small --it consists of Eric Algra, Gilbert Roe and myself--- and it recently came  together through our mutual interest in exploring the Mallee photographically.   

None of us live in the Mallee, but  each of us has developed a broad photographic  interest in exploring  the South Australian  and  the Victorian  Mallee.  For some  of us, especially Eric,  this interest  goes back several years. What is interesting is that we  approach the Mallee from diverse perspectives.  

What we  decided  over a convivial  pub lunch on a windy winter's day was to come together to put on a series of group exhibitions over a period of years as we gradually built up a body of work about this region of southern Australia.  We decided to exhibit  on a small scale in  Adelaide in late 2016, then produce more work for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in 2017, then doing extra work to exhibit in some regional towns in the Mallee--eg., in Mildura or Murray Bridge.   This  photography gallery in Mildura was mentioned, for instance, as was this one in Murray Bridge and this one in Horsham.   

winter light and French expeditions

This picture of the  Tobin House, one of Adelaide's Art Deco buildings, made whilst I was wandering  along North Terrace in Adelaide's CBD around  5pm. I was enjoying watching the winter light playing across the facades of  the buildings along North Terrace. 

I was on my way to  the opening of Frédéric Mouchet's interesting  exhibition at the State Library of South Australia. The exhibition centred around the South Australia of the French explorers in the  18th and 19th centuries in that Mouchet has retraced their journey around the unexplored coast of Nouvelle Hollande,   including Kangaroo Island, Encounter Bay (Victor Harbor), Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight.

scoping for 5x4 black and white

On the last couple of coastal poodle walks I've started scoping subject matter  for the 5x4 Sinar F2 and black and white film.  I haven't been using this monorail much since I decided to use it for black and white photography.  

I took the Sinar  with me on the  recent photo trip  to the Mallee Highway,  and  I did find some suitable subject matter. However,  the weather was too bright and sunny on the last day for the planned  photoshoot at Torrita. 

This is one possibility along the coast that I  did come across:  

This location is fairly easy to access with a monorail--it's a short walk along the coastal path to the rocks.  I just need an overcast day for the photoshoot with no rain.   

in the Victorian Mallee

I spent 4 days camped at  the Ouyen caravan park with Gilbert Roe  so that I could photograph some of the  grain silos in and around Ouyen  on the Mallee Highway with my large format cameras.   I managed to photography 5 silos--those from Ouyen to Linga--using a 5x7 monorail (for colour)  and an 8x10 monorail (for black and white).   

The next stage in the silo project is to camp at Murrayville so that I can  photograph the silos in and around that hamlet. I prefer overcast conditions  for this kind of photograph the silos, which makes life difficult,  as such  days are few and far between in the Mallee.  It's normally bright, sunny and cloudless. 

I also took the opportunity to start to explore  with my digital camera the countryside of  the Victorian Mallee, which is still economically based around dryland farming and large cereal farms. Even in  late autumn the northern Mallee was dry, hot  and dusty  with dust storms.  The agricultural landscapes  look as if it has extended periods of dryness that cannot simply be put down to intermittent drought. That dryness causes hardship to the local communities, the unravelling of the social  fabric, and the steady decline of the population in the towns and hamlets with their derelict houses and abandoned tennis courts.  

at Wallaroo

I spent several days camping at Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula with Gilbert Roe, a fellow photographer based in Adelaide. We spent the time  exploring the region with our cameras:  Gilbert was using his pinhole camera and I was working with  my  large format cameras. I concentrated on the silos.

 This is one image that I made in the late afternoon with both the  Cambo 8x10 (using black and white film) and the  Cambo 5x7 (using colour film):  

It  was a trial run for me in terms of  camping whilst  being on the road with  the large format equipment. Renting a house,  staying in a cheap motel, or a cabin in a caravan park,  is too expensive these days. Camping was a  trial run because our camping gear is very old and basic,  and I haven't been camping for 20 years or more. So I needed  to see whether this mode of accommodation would work for me as a way of doing the photography road trips. 

at Salt Creek

I've just returned from  spending  4 days on a photo shoot  in and around Salt Creek near  the Loop Road  in the Coorong  National Park. Some of the photos  made  on the trip were in the National Park itself,  whilst many of the others were made outside it. 

This was a snap made in the early morning light when I was returning to the Subaru after a photoshoot for the second  part of the edgelands  project:  

The colours of the samphire that borders the various clay pans are quite intense at the time of the day. The colours become  bleached  outside of the 'magic hour' in the morning and evening. 

sea fog

The last few days on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coast have been, warm,  humid and very still with dense sea fog moving across the  coastal landscape in the early morning and evening. 

These are unusual conditions,  and I tried to explore them photographically, but without much success. The seascapes that I did were dull and flat,  whilst the various photos of trees and vegetation in the fog were cliched rather than poetic. 

Richmond, Melbourne

When I was in Melbourne recently, I continued my  photographic exploration of  the Southern Cross Railway Station and the inner suburb of Richmond.  I hung around  in the former and I continued with my walking the latter. 

I had  briefly visited Victoria Street, Richmond,   with Stuart Murdoch after  our  Kodak shoot for a quick meal at the no frills Thy Thy restaurant. Whilst walking to the restaurant  I noticed that the Victoria Street  part of Richmond had radically changed from the one that I knew when when I lived in Melbourne in the late 1970s. I was working as a conductor on the trams and studying at Photographic Studies College. 

There were no Vietnamese restaurants anywhere in Victoria Street, Richmond.  The notable ethnicities  were Turks and Greeks.  Then Richmond was  identified as Struggletown. It was a working class suburb with cottages, pubs and factories. Richmond, by all accounts,   had started to become a little Saigon in the 1980s.

 Richmond  today is in the process of gentrification,  as a result of the exodus of manufacturing to the outer suburbs thereby making the inner city a much more pleasant place to live. Victoria  St is still  a gritty street,  and it has a vibrancy that Adelaide lacks,  and  what inner city Adelaideans long for and Sydneysiders now miss.   The Gouger Street precinct near the Adelaide Central Market doesn't really cut it. 

I  only had time for a couple of quick, hand held  snaps at dusk with the digital camera before the evening meal.  When walking back to the car after the meal I decided to return to Richmond  the next day  and  walk  Victoria St. I wanted to see if it was a food strip or more akin to an urban village. 

photographing in the Coorong

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.  

Australia Day weekend photoshoot

This behind the camera picture  was taken whilst  I was on  an early morning photoshoot along the Heysen Trail,  with my Linhof Technika 5x4 during the Australia Day weekend. The Heysen Trail photoshoot  was combined with a poodle walk.

I have avoided the beaches this weekend due to  the families  having summer fun on, and taking over,   the beaches The summer fun  also includes  playing on the rocks around Petrel Cove or climbing  Rosetta Head in thongs.  As expected there were more casualties  at Petrel Cove. It is obvious that people do not read the warning signs by the steps  to the beach or on the rocks; or if they do read them, then they ignore them.    

On the morning of the photoshoot the light was dull and flat.   I would have preferred  the soft, early morning light, which was there  when I had previously  scoped the  site,  but it was not to be.  I waited for a while to see what was happening with the cloud cover,   but I realised that  there was little point in hanging around waiting for better light to eventuate. The  cloud cover was  far too heavy.