City-Spaces, Sydney 1976

We arrived in Sydney in February 1973.  I remember the flood of red roofs, the beauty of the city and harbour from the air.  That view left a lasting impression. 

Much happened, personally and professionally, in the period from 1973-1976 but, for now, I will skip to 1976 when I was hired to lecture at the newly established Sydney College of the Arts in Balmain to work with John Williams the head of photography

My relationship with Gael had not survived and I moved to Sydney on my own.  After nearly three years living in an isolated rural environment where our nearest neighbour was a kilometre away, the intensity and claustrophobic closeness of the lifestyle in Sydney was an incredible shock.  I remember consistently waking up at 5:30 am.  Eventually I realised that for about 20 minutes there was a relative degree of silence before the commute traffic began again.  The quiet woke me! 

Sydney was a lonely year that may be best characterised as a period defined by a steep learning curve.  I remember that at times I was quite on the edge mentally and emotionally.  Sydney College of the Arts was an exciting place to be.  The people were well recognised artists and writers and there was a wonderful buzz of energy around the process of creating a new art-college.  I felt honoured to be a part of that process.

Domestically I lived in three different share houses that year and didn't have a studio or darkroom.  I was able to use the college facilities and for a short period, while they were away, I had access to John William's and Ingeborg Tyssen's private darkroom in their home.

The Sydney work presented here is a selection of my images from that year.  Initially I was interested in the trees and plants that I encountered in the seemingly hostile city environment.  These struggling vestiges of nature became a metaphor for my own sense of self in this highly urban environment. 

Looking at this series in retrospect I notice the odd reference to US photographic influences appearing in aspects of this work.  These visual influences, no doubt, offered an outstretched and unconscious hand — a visual connection with the large city-environment.  The influences that I recognise include: Walker Evans, Harry Callahan, Lewis Baltz, Robert Frank, and Jack Welpott (who was one of my teachers at SF State).  It must also be said that I did some street photography with John Williams in the city and at Manly where I photographed John photographing.  Also I did some photography roaming with Ingeborg Tyssen.  It was while with Ingeborg that we found the compound of damaged statues somewhere in the parklands.

Prints from this series are included in the collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.