Why I photograph the urban landscape?

Winter light prompted me to get my 5x4 inch monorail camera out.
The subject a pile of rocks in my backyard
I take and make photographs for a variety of reasons, some pleasurable, some emotional, and some intellectual. I also am the kind of person who enjoys working on tactile objects and the way using my hands can be closely aligned with using my mind.
I have been interested in making pictures in the Urban Landscape since 1988. I began my photography studies in 1987. After 2 years I realised I was mostly interested in photographing the landscape and in the context of art. I spent the next 3 years undertaking a fine art degree. This allowed me to think about the what the why and how of art making and could I try and make art this way?

In the beginning my career I was influenced by Ansel Adams, and the idea of a sublime landscape. Images made in his style of similar subject matter were the kind I initially sought to make. As an urban dweller most of my life trips to the ‘wild’ were infrequent and determined by my free time or the weather. But mainly time.
What this meant was it was difficult to really capture imagery that was truly ’sublime'. Free time to travel was also a hindrance to making the kinds of pictures I aspired to. This was is in part due to light. Light in Australia is at its best in the shoulder periods leading up to autumn and spring. Winter light when it shines is also wonderful. Of course light is often best in the magic hour an time of the year. Magic hour in the suburbs is easy to chase, in the outback, not so easily. Most ‘wild or sublime’ locations in Melbourne are at a minimum one hours drive away. So getting to this kind of location is time consuming and can be difficult, even with a car. The urban landscape is all around me. I can catch public transport there if I need and even on occasion walk.
While at University I was introduced to Joe Deal’s work. In particular the San Andreas Fault series [see image from sofomoma.org below]. The idea that images of a constructed or altered landscape could be valuable and interesting helped me look in other directions and think about my own story. Other Photographers and Artists I was introduced to in this period included, Robert Adams, Frank Gohkle, Hille and Bernd Becher, Lewis Baltz, Henry Wessel Jr., No urban landscape photographer worth their salt can neglect to mention the pivotal 1976 exhibition at George Eastman House, “New Topographics, pictures of a man altered landscape” either.

Joe Deal, Brea, California, from the portfolio The Fault Zone, 1979, printed 1981
Joe Deal, Brea, California,
from the portfolio The Fault Zone, 1979, printed 1981

I go to a place internally in my mind. A place that is hard to describe but very beneficial. It engages my brain in a way where I focus on the moment like no other activity I engage in. Time disappears. Time becomes just a series of small decisions. Left? Right? Up? Down? More exposure less exposure, wait; lots of waiting. Looking without thinking and at the same time only looking and thinking?

Projects? Everyone has a project. Pictures however are only ever pictures. We attach meaning and substance to them as a consequence. one day early in July the light was magnificent, as it often is in Melbourne mid winter. I went outside and made some pictures with both colour and black and white film, in 120mm and large format. Because the light struck me as well as the mood , and because it felt right. Is this a project? Does it not being a project make it invalid work? How do I take years worth of these images and make then into a valid narrative?
People are talking about surveillance capitalism a lot these days. The places I like to go are often bereft of security cameras, but can also be bristling with them. I’ve been asked rightfully and wrongfully to leave several areas in and around Melbourne over the years. If there are no cameras around I am truly alone in a large city. Something that means more to me s I get older.
Making pictures using  camera, especially a film camera gives a level of purpose that very little else in life gives me. The entire process is somewhat meditative. From exposure in camera to final prints.

In the end I make images of the urban for several  reasons. 
For the geography.
As Autobiography.
As Metaphor

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