This picture of porous limestone rocks was made at Venus Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia in 2013. It is just south of Streaky Bay. We were on a weeks holiday there with Heather Petty. Whilst there I avoided photographjng the panoramic landscape views of the cliffs and the Great Australian Bight and focused on the details which fascinated me.
It had been many years since we had last been there, and I'd never forgotten this part of the Eyre Peninsula. Yanerbie, with its massive white sand dunes that extend up to 4.5 km inland from the coast, was firmly planted in my memory, and it is a favourite photographic location of mine for photographing landscapes in South Australia. Landscape, currently has an inferior status in the contemporary visual arts. It's not a fashionable subject in the art institution.
The picture was made on the headland of Venus Bay in the late afternoon along the western part of the South Head Walking Trail which offers views of the eastern end of the Great Australian Bight. The small settlement of mostly fisherman style shacks that hug the coastline of the bay, borders the headline, and the trail around it offered an interesting early morning walk for the poodles.
The landscape of the region has a history of white settlement and agriculture that has its roots in the British imperial power, conquest of aboriginal people, appropriation of their land by settlers, colonisation and the clearing of the bush. It also embodies layers of memories for those who grew up on Eyre Peninsula and whose roots are still there. Often, they return home only to leave again for the city.
Whilst photographing there I became aware that the conventional idea of landscape as a good view of the country and that art was what happened to that landscape when it was translated into a photographic image was misleading. Landscape is the raw material waiting to be processed by the artist, as it were.
However, what I was doing was a bit different to this. The land was the raw material and that my perceptual process converted land into landscape (a particular view) before I even started to make a photo. I was marking off one particular tract of land through an imaginary frame as more interesting, or aesthetically superior, to the neighbouring tracts of land; then constructing a hierarchal arrangement of components within a simple view. Without the frame and the hierarchal arrangement of components I would have a shapeless gathering of features.
Then I set up the camera, look through its viewfinder or ground glass , and adjust what I see to certain conventional/aesthetic ideas about the landscape has been constructed in the history of western European art or in contemporary landscape photography.
So the process is more one of land into landscape, then landscape into art. The land has been arranged into a picture by the photographer before it is pictured as an image with a camera.