architectural photography

This is one of the last images that I made with a large format camera before I left living in Sturt St in Adelaide's CBD  to move down to Encounter Bay on the coast on the coast of the southern Fleurieu  Peninsula. The  photo was made early on a  Sunday morning in the late autumn.   Hence the empty streets.  

It is of Wakefield House  in Wakefield Street just east of Victoria Square.  I do not think that it is heritage listed.  Wakefield House  is  a heavy, concrete modernist building that would have had a utopian feel to it when it was first built and celebrated.   This building represents the future.  It stood for  modern,  industrial  Adelaide. Today, my personal impressions is  that the building has a historical almost brutal look.   

There is a long history of architectural photography and this one is a modest architectural photo in a documentary style rather than an atmospheric moment.   It does not strive to be the glossy architectural photo that one sees in the architectural magazines.   It  makes no pretension to be an architectural hero shot, namely the photo that gives a project an identity through being the face of a building.The hero shot  is the image in commercial architectural photography  done for the client that everyone goes ooh aah over. 

more empty streets

I found the empty streets in the CBD disconcerting,  when I was walking around them in the early morning on the weekends.  This was the reality of an industrial society: a stumbling around amongst the nineteenth century architecture didn't result in  me  coming across a diversity of  random people.  I rarely  saw another person.   

There was a sense of melancholy on the streets.   A desire for an urban life that wasn't there.  I was living in an industrial  city that wasn't really a city because of the lack of people. They were all in the suburbs.  It was eerie. The promise was that people would come with the transition to the post-industrial  society.  

where are the people

 Many of my photos  of the street  from the perspective of carparks have little or no people in them. This is not  just by design.

 One of the notable historical aspects of Adelaide is the lack of people walking the streets or gathering  in squares or piazzas. It always felt like a large country town rather than a capital city

This is starting to change as more people are encouraged to start  living  in the CBD  and more international students arrive to study at the universities in the CBD. But  on Sunday morning the people on the streets are few and far between.  

One reason for this lack of people is the lack of piazzas or laneways that are closed to cars. It is proving very difficult to achieve this because it is political. The  political conservatives are opposed to the inner-city living,  and they favour the suburbs and the use of the car as  the  mode of transport.   

The conservatives  see those who want  the inner city to be a more attractive and liveable as Greenies who are  pro bike and anti-car. They favour more investment in freeways and less investment in public transport including light rail in the CBD.  

Adelaide: a doughnut city

One way of making sense of Adelaide as a city is in terms of  it being akin to an American  doughnut.  The American donut is a sugary ring with an empty centre and is a fine metaphor for the rich suburbs around a collapsed inner city. The city centre was structured on the segregation of urban areas into retail, industrial and living areas whilst the  suburbs were designed as a refuge from the bustle of city life. 

Since the mid-20th century Adelaide, like other Australian cities,  has been subjected to the "doughnut effect": the city centre becomes "hollow" as population moves from inner suburbs to the outer suburbs in search of newer, larger or more affordable houses. The ‘great Australian dream’ was a large house on a quarter-acre block in the suburbs. Consequently, Adelaide became a low density city.  

People live in the suburbs on the urban fringe and work in the city. Since adequate public transport runs out well before you hit the real 'burbs' people  travel to the city in the car to work, shop and play.  The city centre  is full of car parks,  office buildings, shops  and commuters. 

The conception of the  city as a doughnut overlooks that the hollowed out centre (CBD) was,  and  is,  a place of  mostly white collar work within high rise office buildings. In Adelaide  these  building are mostly in the  bland modernist style: rectangular shapes of concrete and glass.  

The hollowed out centre is mostly noticeable on the weekend: the streets are empty of people. It was devoid of vitality and the city centre had the feel of a urban wasteland or concrete jungle. The corporate model was a soulless landscape of glass, steel, and concrete boxes.

Sixth Street, Bowden

These  Bowden street scenes are a part of Adelaide's working class and urban history. Bowden--- and Brompton--- were once counted among the least desirable suburbs in Adelaide. The expansion of the very industrial and commercial premises which had sustained the working class community in the nineteenth century caused a decline in the close-knit working class  community and  by the 1930s Bowden and Brompton was classified as one of Adelaide’s slums.   

 The  Metropolitan Adelaide Transport Study, released in 1968,  meant that  the Highways Department proceeded to buy properties.  Many houses owned by the Highways Department showed that their standard fell much below the general standard of housing in the area. Even though he North-South Transportation Corridor proposal was finally abandoned in 1983   The  suburbs became  progressively more run down during the 1990s,  the small scale housing  degenerated, and as a consequence of its closeness to Adelaide and manufacturing districts, the suburbs become a centre for storage, commercial or wholesale purposes.      

The closure of the gasworks that dominated Brompton in 2000 and Clipsal Industries' relocation from Bowden in 2009 provided an opportunity for re-development of these suburbs.  Many of the buildings in Bowden have been pulled down as part of the process of urban renewal. The factories, working class cottages and warehouses have been replaced by  parks and houses by what is known as Bowden Village. 

These street scenes, and the people who lived there,  are part of Adelaide's history that is forgotten. Few will remember them.  Few lived here. Little will be protected as heritage, for Bowden signified, for respectable  Adelaide, the negative of  civilised urban living. It was seen as dystopia: a polluted,  industrial place  full of dead  beats, bums and  alcoholics. 

periously situated

The art historian's interpretation of Australian surrealists paintings in the Agapitos/Wilson collection,  highlights the  representations of their dreams and unconscious  fears and anxieties about  both the 1939-45  war  and their repressed sexual desires.  

Today our fears are activated  by the negative effects that the  economic processes of the global economy  has on our localities and regional way of life.

We fear the wrecking ball that  throw us out of work into unemployment and onto the scap heap that we experienced with the on-going process of de-industrialization that started in the 1980s,   and then the global financial crisis around 2007. The last forty years of neoliberalism have resulted in massive increases in inequality, obscene wealth for a tiny few, but no greater happiness for the many. We find ourselves somewhat periously situated.  

We live with an unease about the break down of civil society, the growing distrust and  increasing violence, joblessness and stagnating wages,  and  the rising costs of living, even though Australia is doing okay compared to Europe and the US.    

There is now a lot more anger in public spaces. The surreal quality of everyday existence is  no longer about the outback, as it was in the 1940s. Australian's turned  away from the outback  to embrace suburbia. Suburbia was the new  or modern Australia. 

errant wandering after 9/11

The public realm - both as a physical and virtual space - has increasingly and insidiously become a privately owned and managed environment where under watchful and anonymous eyes, the activities and behaviours of the public are both monitored and controlled. Loitering or meandering generates a suspicious glance; the gathering of groups is perceived as a threat; desire lines must be hastily overwritten with pathways that tow the agreed and official line.

Photographers lurking  in the ambiguous shadows and darkened alleyways away from the corporate branding are a special target of security guards and police in the public domain.  They are targeted under wrongful suspicion in relation to the anti-terrorism legislation enacted after 9/11; wrongful suspicion of anti-social behavior when there‘s no legitimate evidence to support the suspicions and accusations that result in the photographer being stopped for being a potential terrorist.

The law and legislation provided to the police are being pushed and misused to the extent that it is creating a hostile environment for public photography. Members of the public and media do not need a permit to photograph in public and that the police and security guards do not have the power to stop them from filming or photographing incidents or police personnel. 

Yet photographers have been stopped without having any reasonable suspicion on the grounds that  taking images  could be constituted as antisocial behavior.Taking a photograph in the public space is  deemed to be  risky and potentially threatening to the authorities.

The resurgence of interest in the act of walking or 'wandering', within contemporary artistic practices,  with their  roots in the Surrealist errance and Situationist derive,   can be viewed as a critical tool or conduct  through which to challenge or subvert the logic of the various surveillance systems.

returning to Port Adelaide

I mentioned in the Introduction that my photographic roots were in Bowden and Port Adelaide--the industrial  or manufacturing side of Adelaide that was developed in the 1950s. It was a low skilled, low tech   form of manufacturing  that was indifferent to the environmental consequences of the pollution of the commons caused by industrialization.

The old tidal swamp along the Port River estuary was developed into Port Adelaide and it became  the site of much heavy industry and shipping and pollution. What was damaged from pollution, ie., heavy metal contamination,   was the Port River, which was  more or less treated as a sewer. 

The river and the ocean were seen  as  spaces  that business  could  discharge the  stuff they didn't want anymore without paying for  polluting the environment. It was the state's job--socialising the losses.

The progressive  state Labor Governments under Don Dunston and John Bannon had difficulty dealing with the environmental damage. Consequently,  working class people lived in a polluted environment and their health suffered as a result.