Thoughtfactory: large format

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

Posts for Tag: bushland

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. .

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. 

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.