I have tentatively made a return to the project of walking the city of Adelaide with a hand held camera. This project has been tentatively put on the backburner for some time. Walking the city with a large format camera and a heavy tripod has definitely been placed on the back burner.
This recent experience persuaded me to think about picking it up. I briefly looked at the archives. I decided that it would make a good break from sitting in front of the computer working on the text for The Bowden Archives and Industrial Modernity book. Then I realized that the Walking Adelaide project, which is about urban psychogeography, could be interpreted as building upon this body of photographs from the 1980s, which form the third section of The Bowden Archives. There are a lot of photos from the time when we lived in the CBD, but I am unsure how to conceptually organise them into a book project. That is why this project has been on the back burner with only a blog as its public face.
So off I went on a tentative foray to Adelaide's CBD last Thursday (7th October). Below is a cafe in Hindmarsh Square next to the old central office of SA Health. This cafe used to be quite buzzy:
There were a lot of people sitting around in the square as it was a warm sunny spring day. I would have thought this mass would have kept the cafe open, given that there is currently no Covid-19 community transmission in South Australia.
I spend a couple of hours walking the CBD -- just a playful, drifting aimlessly around (dérive ) in good Situationist fashion. The city was very quiet even though I was walking between 11am and 1 pm -- ie., around lunch time. Many of the cafes had gone, most of the restaurants in the Rundle St East strip were closed, and there were many empty spaces for rent in the CBD. Some of the fashion shops had gone and there was only the odd customer in the ones that were open. These are strange times compared to even this time.
The CBD was so quiet it was eerie and disquieting. Maybe people are still working from home, rather than going into the office each day? Will things start to change when the state borders begin to open in a couple of months? International travel is expected to resume then.
I decided to start use my newly renovated silver Leica M4 rangefinder with black and white film on the foray, along with my digital workhorse -- a Sony A7R 111. The M4 had been out of action since 2009. The camera strap broke, the camera fell onto a concrete floor, and the rangefinder mechanism was kaput. It could not be repaired in Australia. The M4's rangefinder mechanism was replaced replaced with a newline from an M6 by by Leitz in Germany. The M4 also had a newish 35mm Summicron ASPH lens that I'd recently acquired. (It took me several years to save up for both the repair and lens!)
It was tentative steps using the Leica as I'm out of practice thinking in terms of black and white in an urban area. This hesitancy is so different to the pre-digital era when the Leica M4 was my walk around workhorse.
This was an empty space I came across in a side street off Grenfell St. Maybe this space was facing Hyde St, which is a side street that links Grenfell and Pirie Streets near the western end of Hindmarsh Square:
This would not be an easy space to lease during a pandemic. And there were just so many empty spaces.
This foray to the CBD was enough to convince me that the CBD had changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic from when I knew it 4-5 years ago. I found the experience depressing. Some people wore masks in the street, others didn't though everyone wore them when inside shops. The mood of the city was one of an anxious wariness, with an uncertainty about the future. The Delta strain of Covid-19 will eventually arrive in Adelaide once the state borders are opened. What then? The vaccination rates are still low in South Australia and they are projected to reach 80 per cent of the state's eligible population in early December.
An empty restaurant in Rundle St East at lunch time:
In reflecting on this foray as I drove back to Encounter Bay I thought that it would be worthwhile to return to the walking Adelaide project. This would require me to making the trip to the CBD a regular event. Regular trips to Adelaide in order to just walk the CBD (ie., as a psychogeography), will require some planning. It is too much of a hassle driving all the way into the CBD from Encounter Bay. The most realistic option would be to drive to Seaford from Victor Harbor, catch the train to the CBD and spend the day walking the city, then catch the train back to Seaford at the end of the day.
I then wondered if this walking Adelaide project would be classed as a form of photojournalism. Is photojournalism limited as photography by journalists? Is photojournalism about giving voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves? If so, then walking Adelaide is not a form of photojournalism.