City-Spaces, Adelaide 1977-1978

During my time living in rural New South Wales I taught two photography workshops at the art school in Hobart where Geoff Parr was head of photography.  I was quite interested in teaching there and I also made myself known at the South Australian School of Art in Adelaide.  I was looking for a place where I could live in the country and work in the city.

In 1977 I was hired to head photography in the first year of the Bachelor of Art program at the SA School of Art.  This was the first time in South Australia that photography was offered as a medium equal with painting, sculpture, or printmaking.  Again I was faced with a steep learning curve in establishing the BA photography course and generating student interest in the potential of the photographic medium. 

Adelaide was then a provincial city without a nationally recognised artist working with photography.  In fact, nationally, photography had a relatively low level of recognition in the visual arts.  The history of photography in Australia was represented by a single, casually researched, book by Jack Cato.  An interest in contemporary practice was being stimulated at the Australian Centre for Photography in Paddington through their gallery and their publications.  Also most of the state galleries were raising their profiles through the collection of significant contemporary photographic artworks from Australia and overseas.

After the overwhelming breadth, diversity, and intensity of Sydney, Adelaide felt like an overgrown regional town.  The general knowledge of photography students consisted of Max Dupain, or possibly David Moore, and the odd international photographer like Diane Arbus. 

While I worked seven days a week to pioneer the course I also continued the City-Spaces idea in this new environment.  A selection of that work is included here.  Initially I tried to continue with my medium-format version of street photography that I had initiated in Sydney.  In Adelaide I found that similar subject matter was relatively scarce.

My relationship with the city was mainly experienced in my car driving from the Adelaide Hills along the edge of the central business district and through a few suburbs to the college or on excursions to various parts of the city and other suburbs.  Carrying my Pentax 6X7 in the car I started to collect images, mainly when stopped at intersections, for a work that would include 108 photographs.  I invited a photographer friend, Michael Harris, who was visiting from the US to also take photographs with my camera as I drove.  This idea, influenced by Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha and his book 26 Gasoline Stations, was mainly concerned with the collection of images and not with aesthetic choices.  Mike Harris found it very difficult to photograph situations that weren't, to him, interesting.  We had a lot of laughs as he fought against his years of conditioning.

Prints from this series and a work titled 108 Intersections are included in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.