CSR Photography Project 1982-1983

Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) was founded in Sydney,  Australia in 1855.  The company soon expanded into milling sugar cane in Queensland and Fiji.  It diversified in 1942 and became a producer of building materials.  In 1982 I received an artist commission to make photographs at the CSR gypsum mining operation on Kangaroo Island 14km (8.5 miles) off the coast of South Australia and 110km (70 miles) south of Adelaide.

The mine, near Penneshaw at Salt Lake, was established in 1956 by Ingham Plaster Co. Ltd.  CSR Ltd took over the operations in 1959 and expanded it to include a crusher, a washing plant, and a facility to load ships at Ballast Head.  The Salt Lake deposit was exhausted in 1981 and they transferred to the nearby Pelican Lagoon and the New Lake deposit.  They continued operations there until 1986.  The total production of gypsum was 4.8 million tons.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that CSR operated mines at Wittenoom, Western Australia where they mined the extremely hazardous blue asbestos.  Many people who passed through the mine during its operation have since died of pleural mesothelioma and/or lung cancer, caused by their exposure to blue asbestos.  I was not aware of this when I accepted this artist project.

I spent around a week at the Kangaroo Island gypsum mine.  The mine appeared to be a relatively small open-cut operation.  The crushed gypsum was trucked to an area near the ship loading site.  Once loaded the gypsum was transported to the east coast where it was used in the production of certain building materials including plaster board.

Shown here are a suite of selected images.  This work came after the Land of Time but was concurrent with the later Made Mountains images and the influence of those two suites of photographs fitted quite well with this commission.  Some of the images that I consider to be the most impressive 'made mountains' came from this project.

The negative format I used for this work is 6x12cm. With a special back on my 4x5 view camera I used 120 roll film.  The original 'C-type' prints I made were relatively small but the scanned negatives will now produce considerably larger archival pigment prints.