living in a commodity culture

We are surrounded by the images of our commodity culture whether we are watching tv, walking the streets of the city or working on our computers. The visual signs are everywhere.

Our experience is that we live under the assumption that there is no other way of knowing and being outside the phantasmagoriac realm of representation of commodity culture.

mannequin, Rundle Mall, Adelaide

So I photograph these visual forms. We often sleepwalk through their world, barely conscious of the way they speak to our desires or shape our sensory experience. ‘Sleepwalk’ because I often feel that we are living a dream of what it is to be modern in a world of progress (to a better life or future); a dream woven for us by the culture industry of capitalism.


My response to the ‘in a vacuum’ post has been to walk the city with a digital camera looking for possible photographic subjects in the central business district for my large format work. I came across a couple of possiblities:

Cluhouse Lane, Adelaide

The possibilities I uncovered explore the grungy side of Adelaide CBD. Though grunge is usually associated with the music of the 1990s there is grunge literature of the 1990s that charted the territory of young people living in inner cities.

window shopping

I combined yesterday’s walk into the city to pick up the rubbish for the still life photoshoot with a few snaps. They were taken on the way into Hindley Street.

window shopping

The initial part of my walk left me rather down. Adelaide is so boring and depressing. Nothing much happens here. Its dead. The streets are empty. The place feels asleep. There seems to be little potential for urban change. Culture here is about big festivals and keeping old buildings from falling down.


One of the more noticeable aspects of urban life in the inner city of Adelaide is the number people staggering around the streets after having too much to drink. I notice them more than usual because the poodles are very aware of them –the behaviour of drinks is unpredictable because they stagger.


The drunks are often the homeless older men, aborigines who spend the day in the parklands, and young men staggering around the streets after boozing all night in the nightclub strip. The latter are the most violent and are often aggressive. They are to be avoided because the poodles will attack them if they get too close.

Hong Kong Grocery

As I mentioned in the previous post I rarely work in the street photography tradition. I don’t have the skills and it is difficult to do this kind of photography whilst walking the poodles. On the rare occasions that I do so I generally hang out around Chinatown.

Gouger Street

Chinatown is very small in Adelaide, but it has been given a new lease of life with the flow of international students into Adelaide. Suddenly, this area has come alive with people going about their daily business.


One of my great frustrations on the poodle walks is the lack of accessible locations that give a view of the limited urban skyline in Adelaide. With the roofs of the corporate and public buildings are closed off with security in the lobby. That pretty much leaves the car parks.

one way

Though these are accessible most have fences around the edges to prevent people from jumping off them and committing suicide. Those with fences and with open rooftops are few and far between and of these, few have interesting urban views.

I’m not a street photographer working in the classical tradition—such as Sean O’Brien or Jonathan van Smit or Rui Palha on Flickr—as I just do not have those skills.