Thoughtfactory: large format

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

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.    

The remnant bush struck me as a  significant issue. There is so little of the bushland  left in South Australia from the historical deforestation  and land clearing that was  aimed at creating an agricultural  state. 

I began to have some doubts about the cultural vitality  of photography in Adelaide,  its ability to engage in critical judgements and the extent to which  photographers engaged with academic writing about photography. In this culture there is  a strand that is dogmatic, anti-intellectual,  hostile to academia,  and locked into the past.  This regional photographic culture is comfortable  taking photos and  talking about the  technicalities of  equipment and  processes. It  prefers to  look at other photos  rather than read  the critical writings about photography.