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.
We reckoned that by 2018 we would have a substantial body of work and would have been able to put money aside to hire gallery space to exhibit in the capital cities, such as Canberra and Melbourne. The final stage would be a book. We didn't discuss what the book would look like--only the pros and cons of using Blurb or Australian publishers. There is a lot of work to be done before then though.
One of the issues that we discussed was whether our photo work was documentary or would be classified as so. The issue came up in a discussion about grants and how these have a bias to placing an emphasis on art photography at the expense of, or even excluding, documentary photography. The consensus was the work that we we're doing was probably documentary in style but with an art photography inflexion. The photos are constructed so they say something about the character of the Mallee.
I and the others feel that we have only scrapped the surface. There is a hell of a lot to see. I don't know is whether other Australian photographers have done something similar in The Mallee I admit that my knowledge of the South Australian Mallee is minimal, my sense is that the sandy scrublands of the Mallee is under threat due to the clear-felling of three-quarters of the vast expanse of Australia's Mallee lands to build one of the world's most productive dryland farming systems and, more recently, irrigated agriculture. It's a big country with a fascinating history.
Up to now my exploration of the Mallee has been limited to driving through the country, and then as an outgrowth of the silo project along the Mallee Highway. When working on the silos project I photograph them in the early morning and late afternoon and during the rest of the day I'm driving around exploring the Mallee with my camera. I have some digital images but only have a few medium format and 5x4 negatives from an autumn photo trip to Ouyen in 2016 with Gilbert.
On a personal note I am anxious to return to the Mallee --I'd planned to camp at Murrayville for several days ---but the weather has been far too wet so far, and it looks as if this may continue during July. I'm thinking of doing some day trips to the towns north of Tailem Bend, such as Peake and Geranium.