Thoughtfactory’s large format

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

Posts for Tag: Fleurieu Peninsula

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.  

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.     

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.  

at Currency Creek

I remember really struggling  to get  the  large format photography off the ground when I picked it up after a 20 year absence.   I'd lost the knack.  At the return stage, even though  the work flow  was simple --- the negatives were  developed and scanned by Atkins Lab,   the results were less than impressive.   I was rusty. 

This picture of the brick piers of the  old railway bridge at Currency Creek was an attempt to  construct a situation --- a family outing by a creek as it were. We were living in Adelaide at the time  and we stayed  at Victor Harbor every second  weekend. On the Sundays when  we were at Victor Harbor  we -- Suzanne, myself and the standard poodles --- would often go for an outing. We were exploring and getting to know the Fleurieu Peninsula.  We visited Currency Creek a number of times as it was a good place to walk the poodles along the creek.