living in the Adelaide parklands

One of the central aspects of Adelaide for me is the Adelaide parklands that surround, and stand in contrast to, the grid of the CBD on all  its sides.  Though we live in a townhouse in the lawyer precinct of the CBD near the Central Market,  we are just two blocks away from the southern parklands that contain Veale Gardens (Walyo Yerta).

We  frequent them  daily because  it is where we habitually  walk our standard poodles in the morning and the evening. I don't know much of the history of the parklands but from lived experience  we have a good sense of the environmental health  and  the life--animal and human-- of the parklands from its  multiple use. 

Most of those parklands have been retained over the last 170 years, whereas most other cities have suffered significantly greater alienation of their parklands over the same period.  At long last the south western corner, which  had been  a barren wasteland with a few trees is being extensively replanted. It---Minno Wirra--- is beginning to  become an urban forest.

The parklands are a site of resistance as there is  strong and widespread  public support against various attempts to encroach on them-- alienate the land---and to develop them.  South Australians see them as fundamental to the character and ambience of the city.

The temporary  or transient aboriginal camps remind you that Adelaide, as a post colonial settler society,  is built on the land of the displaced Kaurna people and is haunted by the dead, both black and white. 

The different sections of the parkland have recently  been given their original aboriginal names  by the Adelaide City Council as part of the reconicliation process. The area continues to be a contemporary meeting place for some Aboriginal people.

Introduction: my Adelaide

I decided to start a book on Adelaide, my hometown,  because I  had became tired of just taking lots of photos and posting them to Flickr,  to  Rhizomes1, my photoblog, or to Facebook.  I needed to shift from being an enthusiast taking snap shots  to working on a project that required some thinking about what I was doing. I thought, why not produce a DIY Blurb book?  

How would I organize the material?  I though that the Posterous  micro-publishing software could help me produce a draft of the book---postcards from, or impressions of,  Adelaide, rather than a history of the city?

So I began to start selecting the pictures that I'd been taking in and around the city of Adelaide over the last couple of years into a computer file;  and then started posting them into a Posterous blog. This process, I reasoned,  would then force me to start to think about, research, and  write some text to go  with the photos.

From this process would  a rough draft  or text would emerge and I would have have abody of body that could be worked on, and shaped,  into a book.  I could  to think of the DIY book as a book, as opposed to a portfolio of photographs, or a series of blog posts.  

The basic idea  of the book is that it is a  personal interpretation --my Adelaide,  as it were. This is the Adelaide that emerges out of  my urban exploration as a photographer walking its grid-like streets. The body is important here as I walk the streets, since it is the body that initially responds to the architecture, public mood,  urban light and the  flow of the street.

This approach has affinities to the New South Books series on Australian capital cities in which well-known writers reflect on their home town. So far we have  Peter Timms’s Hobart, Matthew Condon’s Brisbane, Delia Falconer’s Sydney,  Sophie Cunningam’s Melbourne and  Kerryn  Goldsworthy’s Adelaide. Books on Perth, Darwin and Canberra will follow in 2012. 

I haven't read any of these texts so I don't know how they've critically reflected on their hometowns. The exception is Goldsworthy’s Adelaide, which  rummages through the personal past of  her  lived life in  Adelaide.  This  review  of the text in the mainstream press doesn't really come to grips with what this book is doing. 

Stephanie Hester says that Goldsworthy's Adelaide is along the lines of: 

a palimpsest, or  a layering of sense memory , mood a layering of sense-memory, mood-memory, and the vivid recollection of images, emotions and events ... a text  in which  layers of history and myth and memory have been placed upon each other to form the most illustrative of “maps”. 

It is a literary vision of bodily memories  from which Goldsworthy constructs a complex map of narratives and sensibilities that lie beneath the simple geometry of Adelaide's urban grid; or the self-image of Adelaide as a  comfortable, small  provincal town with a friendly-at-home atmosphere. 

My Adelaide has its roots in Bowden, an old industrial suburb,  where I lived in an old working class cottage (now demolished)  when I first came to Adelaide from Melbourne. I converted the shed into a darkroom and I started taking photos in and around the area.

That  working class Bowden has gone.

My Adelaide also has its roots in Port Adelaide. I used to go down there with Fichte, my standard poodle, the Kombi and a large format camera. I was attracted by the wastelands on the edge of the city: 

Bodily memories, and the embodied knowledge emerging from my photowalks,   also provides a link to William Klein's photographic books about cities – New York, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo. These were filled with raw, grainy, black-and-white photographs that caught the energy and movement of modern urban life with scant regard for traditional composition.

The New York book---Life is Good & Good For You in New York: Trance Witness Revels.  (1956) is a  kind of impressionistic diary of Klein's wanderings on the streets of a squalid New York,  and  it is widely recognized in photographic culture for its  iconoclastic graphic design.