tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Thoughtfactory: large format 2024-04-18T09:15:52Z Gary Sauer-Thompson tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2103291 2024-04-13T03:38:43Z 2024-04-18T09:15:52Z Mt Arapiles + Mitre Rock

I came across the image below  whilst  going through  the archives looking  for photos that I'd made in April 2022 when we stayed overnight  in accommodation behind the coffee shop at Natimuk. We were on our way back to  Encounter Bay in South Australia from  walking in Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. 

I'd forgotten about the  image below  which  I'd  made on my  first visit  to this  part of western Victoria.  It  is of Castle Craig at  Mt Arapiles (known traditionally as Dyurrite by the Djurid Balud clan of the  Wotjobaluk people) and  it was made pre-Covid  with the 5x4 Linhof  Technika IV  Some other colour images  from Mt Arapiles  are here.  

Mt Arapiles, which  is in  the  Mt Arapiles-Tooan State Park near Natimuk,  is  a large  rock outcrop overlooking the Wimmera plains and surrounded by the  agricultural country.   It is a well known international  climbing spot. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2098388 2024-03-23T05:38:46Z 2024-04-12T10:06:27Z Waitpinga bushland + the Anthropocene condition

Living on the  coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia  has meant that I've become  familiar with both the local, banal or unscenic bushland that is considered unworthy of aesthetic attention, and  making large format landscapes of this region.  Since the past three decades have witnessed a growing awareness of climate change and its impacts on people and the natural environment,  photographing nature needs to take  this impact into account. How to do that with a camera and a lens is something that I  struggle with without resolving.

The two pictorial realist photos  in this post are  ones that look at the non-human world in the context of what is happening  to nature in the context of the background climate heating.  A first attempt,  as it were, to  link landscape photography and climate heating,  to push   the traditional centre of the human experience and the human aesthetic preferences aside and to initiate a photography of mourning within the tradition of landscape photography.  

This has made me aware of my unease with the views of those who hold that we live in a post-natural world. A post-natural world means that  nature is no longer independent of   human activity.  The world we  inhabit is the one we  humans have made.The cultural concept  for this new planetary epoch is the Anthropocene condition  in which  the geological strata we are now creating record industrial emissions, industrial-scale crop pollens, and the disappearance of species driven to extinction. This cultural concept is used by many to describe an era of accelerating human impacts such as climate change and biodiversity loss. 

 However, if climate change is the emblematic crisis of the neo-liberal Anthropocene, turning the world’s climate  into a joint human-natural creation, then nature  is still ontological independent of humans --- it  existed before us and will likely go on existing after us. Though the world we inhabit will be one that we have helped to make, and in ever-intensifying ways,  there is no  need reject terms such as the natural world. By “the natural world,” we mean  the material structures and processes of the  non-human world. So we should say  nature  is no longer unaffected by human activity. Humans are dependent  on nature but nature is not dependent on humans. Nature will continue to exit without us and will produce new species and forms of life without human intervention. .

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2088461 2024-02-13T06:00:13Z 2024-04-14T06:44:58Z the photographic image

A historical post with two large format photos of wetlands in South Australia from the archives. 

Traditionally art photography has been foundationally tied to the fine print as this  provided the  aesthetic criteria that enabled photography  for find  a place in an art gallery/museum.  Tying photography foundationally  to the fine print was especially important for the  large format photographers in Australia from  the 1970s onward,  especially so for the photography circles around  The Photography Gallery at 344 Punt Road in South Yarra,  Melbourne.  

This foundation was historically significant as it  ensured that  photography became part of art's  traditional value system that was centred around  authenticity and originality. Photography's entry was an event of the new that then required a readjustment and re-evaluation of the boundaries of art's traditional value system.    

If history is all there is then we belong to this tradition,   which holds that art is something that challenges and breaks with our  usual comportment towards things. We cannot disregard this tradition,  simply leave it behind,  overturn it,  or dismiss  it as an error.  We can, however,  reinterpret this tradition as distorted,  or as  having its legitimacy reduced,  in the sense that  the photographic  print was but one of photography's  reproductive forms. 

(Wetlands, Hindmarsh River, Victor Harbor. Cambo 5x7 monorail, Schneider-Kreuznach 210mm, Kodak Portra 160) 

Photography's  multiple  reproductive forms historically  included  slide and video projection and, currently there are  different technological forms of monitor display. Today, with the emergence of the networked digital image,  the print is but one of photography reproductive forms. So the  photographic tradition's foundational  emphasis  on the print  is a distorted one.  Perhaps photography no longer needs foundations to justify its status as art?     

Multiple  reproductive forms of photography in our contemporary digital culture suggests that, if  that  the photographic image need no  longer be  foundationally tied to the  reproductive form of  the  print, then  we need shift  to thinking  about the photographic image as image instead of  the photographic image as print. 

This is  an important  shift given the  massive circulation of images associated with  the emergence of the digital image  associated with the host media technologies such as computers, internet, video games mobile devices. Our world is saturated with moving or circulating images of all kinds including prints.  We are  moving towards a world where everyday  life and digital technology seamlessly blur. It appears that with immersive video  the internet is moving off our screens and into the world around us  as spatial computing  given that Vision Pro and other “passthrough” headsets brings VR content into our real-world surrounding so we see what’s around us while using the device.

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2078447 2024-01-21T00:54:00Z 2024-02-08T06:42:34Z trying to avoid tourist photography

I find it difficult to make  colour photos of the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula that avoid the all pervasive tourist style of imagery. 

The power of the visual image has long been employed to great effect by the advertising industry to sell product.  The tourism industry is no exception. It sells leisure, fun  and the holiday experience in extra-ordinary  locations away from the world of work. Hence the idea of the tourist gaze and the pictures of  landmarks, waterfalls, animals, and empty beaches The relationship between commercial photography and tourism is extremely close, if not  fundamentally integrated. 

How is it possible to make an effective photographic project around climate change and the environment in the era of the Anthropocene is a question I keep stumbling over.  It is a question that  I have yet to find an answer to. 

One option is to photograph in  black and white. Another  option is explore is to experiment.  One possibility here is to harm  or damage the image  in some way-- eg., in the form of multiple exposure. My double exposure didn't really work.   My  second  experiment  was to  move the camera slightly during the exposure  of this photo of the coastline to Kings Head and Beach in Waitpinga:

 Another possibility in harm  intervention is  mark making  in the form of scratching and wounding the surface of the images to speak to the negative impact that climate change is having on nature --- forests, coastlines, wetlands, rivers etc  Multiple exposure and camera shift enable me to step outside the tourist style. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2059388 2023-12-07T08:00:45Z 2023-12-07T10:58:40Z photography and time

The concept behind this  post was to explore the relationship between photography and time. 

The common sense or naïve conception  of time understands temporality as a constant stream of now-moments, or a succession of nows that come into being and pass away. Multiple now-moments strung out in a line.  The traditional conception of time as a continuous series of “nows”  can be found in Aristotle. 

Still photography is traditionally seen as a slice of time, and in the context of the naive conception time this photo would be interpreted  as now moments .   The now moment when the shutter of the 5x4 Sinar  camera was realised. Time, on this account, is an object that stands apart from us. It  is calculative or clock time.   

This image though is an attempt to explore temporality as an interweaving of past, present, and future. The future in the sense of  what is looming ahead, or what is already on its way. What is  on its way is  the ongoing decay and  breakdown of the log, twigs  and leaves. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2055492 2023-11-27T02:05:39Z 2023-12-07T07:11:20Z conceptual photography

Below is an early large format conceptual photo using  the  carpark of the Adelaide Central Market as a location:

Looking back I can see that it referred to the concept of the sublime that permeates our culture as complex emotional configurations. The sublime has different understandings in the history of our culture, but since Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant  it is usually contrasted with, or seen as the opposite of,  the concept of beauty in aesthetics.The aesthetic of the sublime  usually refers to a boundary, threshold  or limit that divides the knowable, familiar world and the spheres of the unknown. The sublime in aesthetics is  associated with broaching limits and is traditionally situated in the  sphere of the  unknown or the infinite.

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2017465 2023-08-28T03:28:41Z 2023-09-01T04:10:17Z Waitpinga: roadside vegetation + reactions

 After I left living in Adelaide's  CBD and moved down to live on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula in Victor Harbor I started  to photograph the remnants of  the  local  roadside vegetation.  The bushland and the roadside vegetation in this region largely consisted of pink gums (Eucalyptus fasciculosa) and grass trees (Xanthorrhoea).  I was finding  the remnant bush and the sporadic road side vegetation hard to photograph as it was so messy and dense.

This was one of my first large format photos of roadside vegetation in colour:

I showed this image,  and the companion one over the page, to colleagues in Adelaide. They were quite scornful and dismissive; a reaction that was made without giving any considered reasons for  why these images needed to be  rejected as of no interest. Was this because the images were in colour? Or that they mediocre,  images lacking creativity? Formless and pretty? The subject matter was unfashionable? The subject matter was regional and not universal?   I had to guess the reasons. 

I did suspect that making landscape photography was a no no in art  circles as straight landscape photography  was considered to be culturally conservative as well as being very unfashionable.  It was old fashioned  and so akin to living in the past.  Landscape photography was largely irrelevant in the art world,  and there  is a disconnect between popular landscape photography and art photography.    

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/2008850 2023-08-07T01:40:02Z 2023-08-07T02:44:44Z Globe apartments, Adelaide

This is another of the early large format  urban  photos that I did  whilst we were living in the CBD of Adelaide. It  was made around the same time ( 2013-14) as this one,  and it was from the same Rundle St car Park in Adelaide's east end  as this photo.  I spent a lot of time looking at the city's  urban textures  from the top floors of various car parks.  

 The photo  was made using colour negative film  (Portra 160 ASA),  but I converted it to black and white in Lightroom.  I wasn't photographing in black and white  then. 

At the time I  was interested in the new architecture emerging out of the old. A  provincial city in transition was the idea that informed the urban large format and I had a sense that I could photograph  urban history in the architecture. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1982910 2023-06-02T06:20:20Z 2023-07-13T06:13:18Z 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). 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1968930 2023-04-23T00:13:18Z 2023-06-02T07:47:07Z Kwong, NSW: a snap, unfortunately

The photo  below is the first photo of a  silo I made on a road trip using the Cambo 5x7 S3 monorail after I'd restarted  large format photography from a 2  decade absence or more.   The underground current  of roadtrip photography  in Australia does  include images made with a  large format camera. 

The silo was near Kwong  on the Sturt Highway west of Wagga Wagga in NSW. It was in 2015 a year or so  after  my Edgeland  exhibition at Manning  Clark House in Canberra in  2014. It was a road trip that connected back to  those I'd done in the 1980s.   I was happy to be on the road  with the large format camera  once again. When I saw the silo near an old, disused  railway line with  the overcast sky I thought that it  would make  a good  subject  for the Cambo: 

I didn't know about the problem of bellows yaw then, which was  caused by raising the monorail's front standard too high.   When I scanned the negative I was  so disappointed and frustrated.   How come I didn't see  the black semicircle at the bottom of  the ground glass of the camera when I was composing the photo?   

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1956489 2023-03-23T06:03:55Z 2023-03-30T03:10:52Z finding my feet

The CitiCentre picture below  is one of my early large format elevated photos of Adelaide's CBD. It is rough and I have never shown  it publicly.  It was made at a time when I was living Sturt St  in the CBD,   and  I'd just started to explore  making  urban large format photographs of   Adelaide.  At the time   I didn't know of any working Australian large format  photographers who was making urban images  of the CBD of the capital cities. Though I knew of  the early black and white  photos that  Grant Mudford made in the 1970s I didn't realise at the time that they were made with 35mm film and not with his Sinar  5x4.  

I distinctly remember the process of making the CitiCentre photo: it was in the late afternoon that  I carried the 5x7 gear to a tram stop,  caught  the tram to Rundle Mall, walked through the crowds of shoppers in Rundle Mall, then  going up the lift to access the top floor of the ugly car park on the corner Rundle and Pulteney Sts. The location had been scoped beforehand -- it has to be prior to making a decision  to make a picture. 

The location  was the  U carpark  that replaced the Foy and Gibson building that was demolished in the 1970s. The car park  had  iron bars or railings that allowed you to put the  lens of a handheld camera through.   Most of the new car parks in Adelaide's CBD are now covered in mesh and it is impossible to photograph through the mesh.  However,  I wasn't really sure that I would be able to  get the camera lens of the 5x7 Cambo momorail through the iron bars/railings of the car park in order to  make the photo. To my relief I could. 

This  was a decade ago and  I had just started thinking about  a project of photographing Adelaide -- a project that would m eventually evolve into  Walking Adelaide several years latter. At the time  I was just making photos and still  thinking in terms of the purity of the image  the modernist  idea of uniqueness and  medium specificity and the white cube.  A photograph of a building in the city is a photograph. It's not the building anymore.   

The process dominated at that early stage.I just counted myself lucky if I could get the 5x7 monorail camera to a chosen location and made a photo. I did know that what I was trying to do was not architectural photography of the latter Grant Mudford.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1950613 2023-03-08T23:30:36Z 2024-01-21T00:57:39Z an experiment gone wrong

How can you photograph the landscape in the era of the Anthropocene in a way that addresses the future that is already  coming? 

The photo below was an attempt in 2022 to try and  represent the movement of hanging  bark caused by the wind within the context of  the strangeness of the local bush in Waitpinga  in the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia.  It was in the early morning during early autumn, when there was a light  breeze  gently moving the bark. The blur was designed to step away from the picturesque or the tourist style. 

The method chosen was a  double exposure of one 5x7 sheet of film  and 2  long exposures of around 40 seconds each. The composition  had been pre-determined with some earlier scoping with a digital camera.  

Alas, the experiment did not work at all.  Failure. 

The tonality of the photo  turned out to be utterly different to what I'd pre-visualized and planned for.  I couldn't believe  what I was seeing when I scanned the negative. "What the hell" was my immediate response. I was dumbfounded.   Then, when I realised the scan was okay, a wave of embarrassment surged through me.  This was such a long way from the quality standards of the large format culture. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1944943 2023-02-24T05:25:28Z 2023-02-24T06:21:35Z Japanese Zen aesthetics: Mono No Aware

This post on Mono No Aware in traditional Japanese Zen aesthetics picks up on this previous  post about wabi sabi and my  large format photography.   This bushland photography in  Waitpinga bushland on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia was a little project during 2002 that was done on  the early morning poodlewalks with Kayla. 

That earlier post  highlighted how Wabi and sabi emphasise contentment and the acceptance of imperfection as a result of the ravages of time. Mono No Aware,  in contrast,  refers  to awareness and acceptance of the ephemeral of life. The “pathos” (aware) of “things” (mono), derives from their transience. The underlying idea is transience and impermanence in life. It is an acceptance of  perishability as opposed to the traditional preference for permanence. 

The most frequently cited example of mono no aware in contemporary Japan is the traditional love of cherry blossoms of the Japanese cherry trees. These  are intrinsically no more beautiful than those of, say, the pear or the apple tree: they are more highly valued because of their transience, since they usually begin to fall within a week of their first appearing.

The fleeting moment in the bushland was the  early morning light:

The light was ephemeral: it  lasted on this branch of the pink gum for a minute or so before disappearing.  I knew the time it happened in the early morning during the early winter months and I would have the 5x4 Linhof Technika IV set  up on its tripod waiting.  Often I would have the camera set up but the clouds would drift at the crucial moment and there was no light on the branch. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1926576 2023-01-09T00:52:36Z 2023-02-02T01:42:06Z Xmas/New Year: at Petrel Cove

During the Xmas/New Year holiday period  I was able  to do some large format (5x4) photography  in and around Petrel Cove at Victor Harbor on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.  As this is my local area  it is easy for me to get to the location and set up the camera before sunrise, which is just after 6am. 

The conditions in this area changed over the holiday period.  The River Murray's flood waters have reached the southern ocean and, as a result,  the seawater around the coast of Victor Harbor has become quite brown and full of weed. The gusty, gale force,  south westerly winds in the first week of January  created a lot of foam along both the foreshore in  Petrel  Petrel Cove and along the western coast rocks to  Dep's Beach and beyond.   

at  Petrel Cove:  Sinar f1,  black and white film:

On a couple of  mornings  it was impossible to  walk along the coast rocks around  from Petrel Cove as the waist high foam covered the littoral zone  up to the base of the cliffs. The foam was very sandy.

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1921200 2022-12-27T01:32:28Z 2022-12-31T02:37:10Z cross processed 5x4 negatives

This  archival coastal image of  tree roots on the edge of the lagoon at American River on Kangaroo Island in South Australia was  part of a bunch of 5x4 colour negatives (Portra 160 ASA) that Atkins Lab -- a  commercial photo lab in Adelaide -- cross processed  in   E6 processing by mistake.  

I was pretty upset  at the time and I wrote about the episode  here.  The cross processed files remained in the archives and were ignored.  What has changed since then is that I've  been seeing a variety of the hand crafted alternative processing images  in the online exhibitions hosted by View Camera Australia.  I found these images fascinating as they opened up a different way of doing photography  to the perfection path  I'd been engaged in.   

Though I admired the work I was seeing in the online exhibitions I judged that the alternative processing pathway wasn't for me. I have  enough problems with large format photography per se without taking a portable darkroom into the field as well and taking 3 years or more  to become proficient in the process.  The slow process of  large format film photography has  enough  imperfection and unpredictability  to act as  counter balance to the computational digital for me. 

What I did  was  to take another  look at the ignored  archival  cross processed files but tI did  so  from the perspective of alternative processing. They actually looked ok. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1918350 2022-12-20T08:25:33Z 2023-02-02T02:42:37Z at Mt Arapiles

On a recent road trip to Melbourne  I stayed overnight at Mt Arapiles. We had been walking for  a week or so in  Wilson's Promontory in early 2022,  and  we were making  our way back  to Encounter Bay in South Australia, after staying a few days in Melbourne. The reason for the overnight stay at Mt Arapiles was that I wanted to  make a few  b+w 8x10 photos of some trees in the flat land in  front of the imposing cliff-face. 

I  had initially visited and explored Mt Arapiles a few years earlier with the now defunct Melbourne-based Friends of the Photography Group that was run by David Tatnall.    I was impressed by Mt Arapiles then and I promised myself that if I had any spare  time on any subsequent road trips to Melbourne I would try to arrange things so that I could tarry a while at Mt Arapiles and wander around the state park. I had several trees in mind that I wanted to photograph.  

 I was intrigued by the area even though it was completely surrounded by agricultural land.  The rock face was the centre of attention of the climbers and the trees and bushes in the open space at the foot of the cliffs were largely ignored. On the  initial visit with the  Friends of the Photography Group I would often walk along and around the straggly trees in the open ground. This terrain could not be considered beautiful. My  experience of being in this landscape was not one of experiencing natural beauty and my sensations were not ones of pleasure.  

I was saddened by the poor condition of this remnant bush but intrigued:   how could I photograph this messy, uncared for landscape? How would I  interpret this kind of landscape? 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1911828 2022-12-03T05:57:24Z 2023-01-30T10:13:06Z a significant moment

This photo of an old  pink gum log  lying on the roadside next to the local Waitpinga bushland represented a significant  moment for  me as a photographer. It was a turning point in the practice of my large format photography, when  I really was on the point  of giving the 5x7 format away. 

It was a a significant  moment for several reasons. Firstly, this  was  when I started to consciously see nature (ie., the  bush) in terms of change and  transience.  Nature was not  unchanging or  timeless (what has always been); nor was it purely a social or cultural construct.  It has its own dynamical processes (eg., decay) even if I couldn't see the processes of things passing away and then them not being there any more.

Secondly,  the image is significant because it was with the negative of this  image  that  I finally figured out how to scan  5x7 colour negatives on a flatbed Epson scanner;  and then to post process them in Lightroom  to obtain a reasonable looking image. One  that was other than  beauty,  and which avoided the problematic mystification of nature in environmental philosophy. 

Thirdly, I connected to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi, whose  emphasis  on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, provided a counter to postmodernism in Australia. The characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, and modesty. History is a big part of wabi-sabi and the wearing  needs to come with actual age and the influence of time. The presence of cracks, splintering  and decay in things are considered to signify the passing of time and the weather.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1906001 2022-11-20T05:09:04Z 2022-11-20T05:21:53Z photography in high summer

The  two photographs below are an experiment. 

At the time I was trying to obtain a washed-out or bleached, high summer look. The photographs are of nothing much, the technique I used was overexposure, and the camera  was a 1960's heavy metal Super Cambo 8x10 monorail,  a Schneider-Kreuznach 240mm  lens and  a Pronto shutter.  

The photo below is of the mouth of the Hindmarsh River  at Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia: 

South Australia has long periods of  little to no rain -- 5-6 months after the winter rains and during the high summer everything looks dried and withered. It looks as if things are just hanging on until the rains arrive in late autumn. The  plants usually  look as if they are  in bare survival mode. Dead almost. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1880663 2022-09-18T04:18:41Z 2022-10-23T06:44:33Z on location: seascapes + time

A behind the camera photo whilst I was on location for a large format photo session earlier this year. 

The camera, for those interested,  is an old  5x7 Super Cambo monorail from the early 1960s.  The location is  the eastern side of Rosetta Head, Victor Harbor, in  South Australia. The time was around  late February 2022 -- which is the cusp of  summer/autumn in South Australia.  

I was photographing light, clouds and sea  at Encounter Bay that morning.   I was fortunate  that there was no north or south-easterly wind blowing. The coastal winds had been particularly strong and persistent in the late summer,  and they continued throughout the autumn and winter months.  Rosetta Head can be, and usually is  buffeted,  by the coastal winds which makes large format photography difficult.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1875729 2022-09-03T11:29:37Z 2022-09-03T11:38:20Z in desperation

The picture below of roadside vegetation in Waitpinga on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula was an attempt to ensure that  the process of making a photos with  the 8x10 Cambo  monorail was successful. I wanted to nail it down in light of all the issues I'd been having -- with the shutter,  the  limited  lens coverage,  vignetting from bellows yaw,  poor development of the film and  Newton rings  when scanning. 

 My experience was one of  a continual series of flaws that got in the way of trying to do something with the 8x10 style of photography.   Since nothing was working properly I wanted to sort out  the dam  problems I was experiencing by  getting the technique  under control.  In desperation  I simplified everything down so  that I could make  a picture that wasn't deeply flawed. It's a bit like being in a workshop or  a construction site with being a mechanic. 

Hence this representation of a tree in the roadside vegetation in my local neighbourhood: 

I wanted to get things working right so  that I could start to shift my photography away from a reflection of what exists towards a photography  that would start to stimulate us to reconfigure our interaction with the world; to try and develop a photography that  leads to  new sensations and stimulates new ways of seeing and being.

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1797713 2022-02-20T23:39:31Z 2022-02-21T05:37:10Z 8 x10 black and white (in Victor Harbor)

The  pictures below of melaleucas at Rosetta Head (Kongkengguwar) in Victor Harbor  were my  early attempts to start photographing my local neighbourhood in the Fleurieu Peninsula using the 8x10 Cambo  monorail.  This  vintage  camera -- it's an all metal Super Cambo  IV  from the early 1960s --- was purchased in the 1980s when I was living in Bowden, Adelaide.   I came across it  lying unwanted in a cardboard box in the corner of a camera shop in Semaphore, Adelaide.  At the time this suburban camera shop had the Sinar franchise.   

I only used the  Cambo  a couple of times in Bowden  because   there were  holes in the bellows and the shutter was corroded. It  sat in the cupboard unused. Around 2010  I renovated  it: a new bellows,  the 240mm Symmar lens  was  repaired and cleaned,  the old "electronic" shutter  was replaced with  a second hand  Pronto  professional shutter  and a wooden case was built to store the camera when it was not in use.  I was ready to go.  I was  eager to reconnect with the large format  photography in the Bowden Archives project of  the 1980s/1990s, and  to break new ground.

At this stage (circa 2014-5)   I had no darkroom and  no way of processing the negatives at home,  even though  I did  have  an Epson flat bed scanner to make digital files.  I had given away the idea of a darkroom  in favour of converting the negatives into digital files, processing the files in Lightroom,   and posting the image on the internet.  The idea was that selected images could  be digitally  printed for  exhibitions using a master printer. 

Old and new technology.  The best of both worlds.   I was excited by the possibilities being opened by this hybrid  approach to print making in the 21st century.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1770373 2021-12-13T09:48:07Z 2021-12-20T03:47:33Z The Adelaide parklands

When we were living in Sturt St in Adelaide's CBD  we spent a lot of time walking the standard poodles in the Adelaide Park Lands --usually  a couple of times a day and at different times of the day and night.   I came to love being in them,  and I celebrated that they had received National Heritage Listing in 2008.  Surprisingly,  they have yet to be listed as a State Heritage Area by the state government. The latter has been procrastinating for a decade or more.   

What caught my eye in the parklands were the Morton Bay Figs. They were impressive trees, and there weren't  that many of them. There was not  enough water  to nourish  them during  Adelaide's long,  hot summer months and they often became stressed towards the end of the summer.   

There were  only  a few occasions that I walked into the southern parklands with the 5x7 Cambo monorail and heavy Linhof tripod from our townhouse in Sturt St to make some photos.  The archives indicate that I only made a few images  and  these were of the trunks of the Morton Bay Figs.

The reason for the lack of photos was that I  didn't really know what I was doing with  large format  photography in the parklands. I vaguely sensed photography’s incapacity to offer significant understanding of the historical and social narratives of place.   I did, however,  have a  loose  concept premised on  the violence in the parklands in the form of gay bashings, rapes, murders, bashings of aboriginal people and a strong police surveillance mostly against the aboriginal people. 

The loose  idea was that of  a  female body in torn clothes (not a naked female body) lying on the ground and  I would use the two above  images as "stage sets" and situate  a  female body with torn clothes in the background of the photo.  i thought that this male violence against women walking in a public space would  be a supplement to the Adelaide project, as the parklands are just as central to Adelaide's urban  identity as Colonel  Light's metropolitan design of straight and narrow.  The aim of the supplement was to counter the  old colonial  idea of Adelaide as paradise on earth.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1728114 2021-08-25T04:51:30Z 2023-03-30T05:01:46Z urban large format

Prior to moving to  Victor Harbor and the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in 2015 we lived in a townhouse in Adelaide's CBD  for a decade or more.  It was easy for me to  wander the streets of the CBD with a digital and medium format camera on various poodlewalks.   Slowly, ever so slowly as I got to know the city  I began to  start using a large format camera  (an old  Cambo 5x7 SC3 monorail) to photograph the streets. 

The locations chosen  were within  easy carrying distance from the townhouse as I was carrying the gear. An example is this picture of  Mill St, Adelaide, 2012, which  was just a block away from where I lived in Sturt St. 

The initial results were not good. I was embarrassed, then discouraged.  It was just so different from walking the streets with a hand held medium format camera. I kept asking myself what was I trying to do with using large format,  apart from making an individual photo? I had no idea. The camera had been used for the Bowden Archives project  in the 1980s and it was sitting in a cupboard.  So I decided to use it. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1710524 2021-07-05T04:11:28Z 2021-08-09T02:04:25Z the experience of.....

I remember that photographing this rock formation at Kings Head, Waitpinga with a large format camera (5x4) was a disconcerting experience. It was probably 6 years ago, just after we had shifted to living on the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula  in South Australia, and I was photographing in my local area.   

It started me thinking about the landscape tradition. Though I'd studied this rock formation a number of times before deciding to photograph it, the photographic act  was not as simple as pointing the camera at an object in front of the camera  and taking a photo. There was  the  time and effort involved in carrying the equipment to the location, then the time and effort making the photo. The latter was over an hour as I waited for the sun to go off the rock. Slowly I became aware of being in nature rather than outside it. In the time that it took to make the photo I  became aware of  nature changing around me,  as well as noticing the weathering marks on the rocks.   

Slowly  the large format photographic event   became about the experience of being in nature: that is becoming aware of the  wind, sea spray, the sounds of the waves and the gulls, the heat reflected from the rocks onto  the human body, the clouds covering and uncovering the sun, and the ever changing light;  rather than being the photographer  standing as an outside observer gazing upon the  form of the coastal rock formation. 

So what to make of this embodied experience  of large format photographing? What did it mean in terms of the history of  the landscape tradition in Australia? Did it mean anything, given that this was, and is,  the traditional land of the Ngarrindjeri people? This is where the sealers and whalers stationed on Kangaroo Island  prior to 1836 grabbed and made off with the women from the Ngarrindgeri people. 

What would it be like to photograph this country  from the perspective of the Ngarrindgeri people after land rights I wondered?  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1690987 2021-05-15T10:59:12Z 2021-06-04T09:54:59Z photography, the internet, art history

One of the consolations of struggling with large format photography is that a narrative of  art that had been objectively stated in the history of art,  had come to an end. We large format photographers  now live in an art world defined by the internet -- art objects are created with a consciousness of these networks within which it exists  from conception and production to dissemination and reception. Internet art defies the conventional art museum/gallery model that has dominated the art world  for so long. Though photographers continue to exhibit their work in galleries,  screens like computers, iPads  and smartphones are now the primary mode by which contemporary art is seen.

Art history is generally thought of as a linear progression of one movement or style after another (Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism,  Abstract Expressionism  etc.), punctuated by the influence of individual geniuses (Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Cézanne, Manet, Picasso,  Pollock  etc … ). Our perception of art was based on a linear, historical progression of one stylistic approach after another. This is a narrative  (a certain linear development ) as distinct from  a chronicle (x happens, then y happens, then z, and so on).

The above art historical narrative  is over  in that  a developmental sequence of events in art historical development has come to an end. This end, roughly  marks the shift between modernist and contemporary art,  and the emergence of an awareness that art can  be made of anything.  That means there is no single meta narrative for the future of art. This liberates a large format photography of nature presented on the internet from its disenfranchisement by the curation in the conventional art museum/gallery model, which is primarily  concerned with the core question of defining what art is.  Historically,  large  format photography of nature was  excluded by the curators in the art institution.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1688391 2021-05-08T10:51:07Z 2021-05-15T12:34:36Z turning to abstraction

In his book of essays entitled  Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews  (Aperture, 1994) Robert Adams says that  "art is too important to confuse with interior decoration or an investment opportunity.  Its real use… is to affirm meaning and thus “to keep intact an affection for life”. 

This is  a succinct and useful insight can be unpacked by referring  back to the  idea of the autonomy of art: namely, that  art was a distinct modality of making sense of things,  and that  this way of making sense was sensible: ie., a mode of non-discursive intelligibility, which does not consist in propositions, arguments, and syllogisms.  

The Jena Romantics ( eg.,Novalis, August and Frederick Schegel)  held that the autonomy of art is meant to connect the aesthetic mode of making sense of things that are deeply important to us with the highest human aspirations for self-understanding and the realization of freedom. They held that this making  sense of ourselves through  art was  more important than the conscious deliberative capacities of individual subjects. Where philosophy ends art begins for unlike philosophy art presents its ideas in sensuous form. Art,  on this account,  is an ontologically distinct object of experience. 

This continental aesthetic tradition, which  runs through Schiller, Hegel, Nietzsche, and the Frankfurt School up to the present day,  is fundamentally different from the notion of autonomy that has been properly labeled conservative; namely, the l’art pour l’art, or “art for art’s sake” eg.,through 19th century aestheticism (Baudelaire, Pater, Wilde), via the significant form of  the Bloomsbury tradition of  Roger Fry and Clive Bell, the latter Greenberg and then Hilton Kramer and the New Criterion in the US.   In this Anglo-Saxon tradition all art has to do in order to be worthy is to be beautiful. There is no purpose, function, or end served by being beautiful other than being beautiful, and one takes a certain pleasure in the irrelevant nobility of the existence of beautiful things. 

I was discovering that working with this Romantic  conception of the autonomy of art  as the creation of the new that was recognisable as being part of the tradition of art was dam difficult. Nothing positive  was happening with my large format photography.  In desperation I turned to photographing the  local granite rocks along the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula. It was a turn to something simple and uncomplicated: returning to the tradition of modernist abstraction and formalism. In modernism art has become its own subject in that the various manifestos can ve interpreted as art has  in its own right become part of art's reflection upon itself.

In the first essay in his Why People Photograph  entitled  'Colleagues'  Adams advances  one reason for the above difficulty I was encountering.  He says that when "photographers get beyond copying the achievements of others, or just repeating their own accidental first successes, they learn that they do not know where in the world they will find pictures.  Nobody does.” 

For sure.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1686130 2021-05-02T05:51:01Z 2021-05-18T04:15:30Z FOPG: in the Otway National Park

This post breaks with the initial  historical approach to this minor weblog about the trials and tribulations of  the practice of large format photography in Australia in an increasingly digital world.   

The photo below  is a  behind the  camera photo  made in 2021 when I was at Lorne with the Friends of Photography Group (FOPG). It was made in the Otway National Forest, whilst we were on our return to Encounter Bay.   The location is  near Joanna Beach, which   is between Apollo Bay and Lavers Hill on the western edge of Cape Otway.  I had wanted to explore the coastal rocks around Blanket Bay and Point Franklin,  but time had run out. That is for another  photo trip  whilst en-route  to Melbourne.  

The specific  location of the photo is  the Aire Settlement Road. I was looking for the Old Ocean Road but I made the wrong turn.  No matter.  The  Aire Settlement Road is easy to access and I could quickly  set up the 5x7 Cambo monorail on  the side of the road by the car.  I  had seen this particular road  on an earlier trip,  when I  had briefly photographed along the nearby Old Ocean Road.   I had  remembered  that photo session and I had always wanted to return to the Otways.      

(You can see a larger version of  the photos in the post by clicking on the photo). 

Though this  photo is a self portrait,  it is really a momento of FOPG's Lorne field trip and  a good bye to  FOPG.    FOPG  disbanded just after their weekend Lorne  trip in March 2021. The FOPG website has gone. Since it would not have been archived by the National Library of Australia, the group  only exists in people's memories, and these fade over time. (I will publish some of the large format photos that I made  on that field trip latter as they still need to be developed by Atkins Lab in Adelaide).  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1672309 2021-03-30T03:29:59Z 2021-04-04T02:42:57Z at Port Willunga

I  basically walked away from  the Currency Creek project. I couldn't figure out how to conceptually  continue with it.  It didn't grow into  a project as I'd hoped, mainly because  I found it too hard designing different situations and activities with models along the different parts of  the creek. 

I decided to take a different approach. I would just concentrate on intuitively making a few photos, put the conceptual stuff  in the background,  and then see what emerged.    I choose the coastal interface at Port Willunga. It was  a landscape where nature meet or interacted with human society. 

The ruined Port Willunga jetty is a tourist icon.  The sticks of the jetty, when Port Willunga was once a grain port,   are  much photographed from the shore.  The sticks or pylons butting out from the eroding sandstone cliffs are an  icon of local,  tourist photography.     

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1664997 2021-03-12T23:35:08Z 2021-03-13T06:57:23Z Currency Creek: rocks, trees, viaduct

The third  photo session at Currency Creek  in the same period was  slightly more deliberate or considered.  I was now starting to think in terms of large format rather than medium format,  by  learning to take my time making a photo,  and  accepting that this was an integral part of the large format process of photo making.  Its motto was slow down. Take your time. Don't hurry.    

However, my  process was still  largely intuitive. My memory of this event was something along the lines of:  "hey,  this scene looks rather  interesting so why not make a photo. It's a different aspect of Currency Creek than the creek itself."  So I'd line up the Linhof 5x4 Technika IV  and make a photo.  

Gary Sauer-Thompson
tag:sturt.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1664551 2021-03-11T22:31:20Z 2021-04-01T02:15:48Z Currency Creek landscape

On a latter visit to Currency Creek  we walked as far along the creek as we were able to  before hitting  the fences that marked private property/keep out of the farmland.   We returned  to an area just above the waterfall where we could sit and watch the water in the creek. We ---Suzanne, myself, and the standard poodles -- had a small picnic there.

I knew this area from our previous walks,  so I  had some  sense of what I would be photographing. I was starting to think  about what I was going to do at a  photo session before the event. I had  begun realize that the entire process of large format  is very different compared to medium format work,  which is how I had approached the former  when I was restarting large format.  I could also sense that large format gave me a sense of discipline. It slowed you down -- setting up the camera, composing, focusing, locating and handling the film holder before, during and after exposure. 

The conditions  for this photo  were similar  to those  of the earlier Current Creek session --- overcast with  flat light -- but it was in the late afternoon rather than at midday. I made a couple of photographs with the Linhof 5x4 Technika IV.  The process was largely intuitive.

Gary Sauer-Thompson