Australian Topographics

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At the end of my street on a recent foggy day.

Recently I was fortunate to spend some time with my friend Gary, I was helping him edit his forthcoming book. We also had time to get out and try and make some pictures, we succeeded in scoping location at the least, and we also talked of many ideas about art and photography.

One idea that is important to both of us is, the idea of ‘a sense of place’, with a focus on photography the urban environment and in particular the Australian version of it. This idea appears to have fallen out of favour with contemporary curators; as far as we can tell from sitting on the edges of the broader photo art community. The idea is broadly practised in landscape photography generally but the 1976 exhibition titled ‘New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” is often attributed for starting it all, and is one of the most cited exhibitions after the family of man exhibition in the 1950s. Gary and myself are two photographers who are exploring these ideas in our own environments. When pressed by Gary to name some other Australian Topographic Photographers, I could not. Yet on flickr alone I have over 800 contacts scattered across the world. I decided then I would start a group on flickr dedicated to Australian Topographics

Googling Australian Topographic photographers produces a list of over a  1 million hits, and in the first 2 pages only one photographer I know personally, Gary.

The most problematic issue for me with this idea however, is that I have to somehow reconcile my white privilege while paying my respects to the first people of this country, as I navigate and make pctures of ‘my place’.


5 thoughts on “Australian Topographics

  1. “My Place” is layered in terms of its history, even if has been forgotten, by many today. There will be sites that are part of that history if you dig around.

    If the 1976 ‘New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” exhibition is one of the most cited exhibitions after the family of man exhibition in the 1950s, then it has had little influence amongst Australian curators.

    1. Agreed, yet I don’t recall where I read the information. Are we experiencing ongoing cultural cringe then?

  2. No. I don’t think so. Postmodernism intervened and changed everything. Strong work was produced in Australia. So the New Topographics movement was forgotten. It’s a good idea to start up up a group on Flickr dedicated to Australian Topographics. I wrote about this in the Edgeland’s essay for the exhibition at manning Clark House. Did I ever give you a copy of the catalogue?

    1. Thanks Gary. I spent many years feeling jaded about post modernism. In the end I just took it in my stride and made work that was honest to me. And still do to this day. I hope you’ve joined the group on flickr, I invited you.
      I have your Edgelands book, thank you.

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