Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

Roadtrips: Moorook + Overland Corner

The pictures below are  from the  archives. I have only  just re-discovered them. 

The first one  is from the early 1990s  whilst I was on a road trip in a  VW Kombi along the River Murray through the Riverland area of South Australia. Prior to buying the Kombi I only knew Adelaide from walking around the city.   The Kombi enabled me to go on roadtrips  to get to know  the rural country.

The location of the photo  is near  Moorook on the Sturt Highway. I was driving by and stopped to make the photo with a Cambo 5x7 (S3) monorail:

The location  is near the  Moorook Game Reserve and the  Wachtels Lagoon.  A game reserve means that water­fowl and duck hunt­ing is permitted on open days at certain times of the year (March to June). 

At this stage I had no sense of there being a  tradition series  of road trips  by art photographers  in Australia.  For instance, I knew nothing about  Wes Stacey's landscapes that he made on his trip along the River Murray  in the 1980s that resulted in his From The Mountains To The Sea or even  his Signing the land photobook.That awareness of various roadtrips  came much latter. My understanding today is that there has been  very little  in the way of a body of critical writing about the various photographic roadtrips in Australia. 

The picture below  is from a road trip  in the 1990s to Overland Corner on the Goyder Highway that is adjacent to the River Murray. It  was made with an old  SuperCambo 8x10 monorail:

 Belinda Houghton's Road Work Ahead: a Study of road photography in Australia -- an online version of her thesis in 2010 --  examined two substantial and significant photographic road trips, Wesley Stacey's The Road (1973-5) and Trent Parke's Minutes to Midnight (2003) and she held that  The Road and Minutes to Midnight represented opposing spectrums of the genre within Australia.  Houghton   adds that her  thesis is only  a cursory study of road photography in Australia and that  it aimed to begin a discussion about the road in Australian photography which has the potential to be explored more thoroughly. Houghton  concluded her thesis saying that there is an absence of a sustained and developed tradition of road photography in Australia.

T. S. Eliot in his Tradition and the Individual Talent" essay  held  that a 'tradition'  can be understood in terms of past works of art forming  an order or “tradition” and that order is always being altered by a new work which modifies the “tradition” to make room for itself. the past is altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. The reciprocal nature of influence is one of the earliest attempts to formulate what would come to be called “intertextuality”—the notion that to write (or photograph)  is always to echo other writing (or photographs). Eliot's essay  is a frontal attack on the central poetics of Romanticismwhich holds that art is the product of the artist's  inspiration an expression of the artist' emotions. 

Houghton qualifies her absence  of a tradition of road photography claim  by saying  that though the  above  two bodies of work --Stacey's  The Road and Parke's Minutes to Midnight, -- demonstrated that there is an established tradition of road photography in Australia, this  has lain dormant for periods of time. On this account the 1980s and 1990s represent the dormant period. What was notably missing in her thesis  was a discussion or an assessment of the critical writing about road trip photography in Australia. This raises a question:'is there any such photographic criticism or writing?'  If there is, it appears to be very thin. 

 I gather that  photographic roadtrips did happen  during the 30 years between  Stacey's  The Road and Parke's Minutes to Midnight,   but these bodies of work need to be uncovered by researchers,   made public,  and then critically assessed or evaluated in relation to  context and situation.