the Xmas break 2018

The weather along the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula over the Xmas break was surprisingly cool; surprisingly so,  given the record breaking heatwave across central and south-eastern  Australia.

Despite having several  friends  stay with us in and around the  Xmas break, it was  a quiet holiday  for me.  I’d  sprained my right shoulder one morning just before  Xmas day  whilst helping Suzanne  to make the bed.

bark abstract, Encounter Bay

The shoulder  became  inflamed and,  as it involved shoulder bursitis pain,    I was obliged to rest the right arm in a sling  for a couple of days over Xmas  before  seeing a physiotherapist late in the Xmas/New Year Day week.  I was given a set of exercises to do  for a week to strengthen the strained shoulder muscle.

Then the injury  would be reassessed. The prognosis was that it could take 2-8 weeks to heal, depending on  how I responded to the various exercises. I’ve  had good days and bad days so far.  

Despite having some large format photos sessions on the coast lined up for the cool,  overcast conditions,   my plan to use the  Linhof tripod and Technika field camera came to naught.  Using this kind of  heavy equipment was simply beyond my  physical capabilities.

quartz + granite, Dep’s Beach

The shoulder bursitis  limited my photography on the poodlewalks,  as even my  usual carry around cameras were initially  too heavy for me to be able to hold them in  my right hand to photograph.  I was  just  able to hand hold  and manually work the modified Sony NEX 7 without experiencing shoulder pain.

The NEX-7  is limited technology as it has no machine learning built into its  minimal  computational photography.   Its modification   meant  I was  limited to macro photography during the week, and this  tended towards abstraction. 

The boaties were out in force in this period,  and with the overcast conditions,  I was able to  wander amongst their 4 wheel drives  photographing their  more interesting headlights in the late afternoon  light.

headlight, Encounter Bay

There was a lot of pain in my right arm and I had to  take anti-inflammatories and frequently rest the arm. The strength slowly  returned to my right arm, enough for me to start using the heavier  carry around cameras on the poodlewalks,  and  to do something other than make  abstractions. 

Maybe my  focus  on abstractions over the Xmas break was because I’d seen the stunning  John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new exhibition at the South Australian Art Gallery, just prior to Xmas.

quartz + granite Petrel Cove

The tools that Mawurndjul used to make the cross hatching bark paintings were sparse indeed: the stringy bark eucalypt  that form the body of his bark paintings; the white clay, yellow and red ochres  that become paint; and the manyilk, the paint brush sedge that makes the single-strand brushes that the artist uses to make cross-hatching or rarrk. This simplicity made the quality of his representations  of his people’s   sacred sites  in western Arnhem Land even more impressive.

Dep’s Beach

My post Enlightenment response to the coastal land and sea  is  different to that of Mawurndjul,  as there are no sacred sites along the coast for me.  This landscape is not a sacred landscape,   as I see  it in terms of natural history that is shaped and formed   by  natural forces, (sea, wind, rain, earth).  It is an ephemeral landscape: the sand comes and goes, as does the seaweed; the waves are  never the same etc etc.

I do realise that I have sites of significance along the coast,  in the sense that these are  ones that I return to  again and again.The particular  sites are invested with special attributes  for me and so they  are a  signified landscape,  rather  than bare granite rock.

seaweed, shell, granite

It  is a personal signification:  this  site is where Kayla found the dead bird and I spend a couple of mornings photographing it; this is where I was drenched by a rogue wave; this is where I fell on the granite, saving my cameras but  badly hurting my thigh; this is where my light meter slipped from the camera bag  into a rock poo; the fresh spring water flowing down the cliff face where the old kangaroo died. . The incidents these sites  in my country have not  been elaborated into stories.

This  is a form of  signification  quite different to  that of  a  colonial nationalism that was based on the  racial purity and the exclusion of others; one  that celebrated what seemed unique in the Australian landscape and which cast around for symbols and emblems  of an essential Australianness. The term bush, for instance,   became part of an Australian preoccupation with national identity and purpose.


Some of the physical places of the coast of  the southern Fleurieu Peninsula   would be experienced and signified differently  by different groups–eg., the colonial discourse of the white settlers in Encounter Bay;  the writings of   the Dresden missionaries in South Australia (eg.,  C. G. Teichelmann and  G. Taplin on the mythology, traditions, customs  and folklore of the  Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri people;    or  the Ramindjeri and  Ngarrindjeri’s Dreaming   narratives, cosmologies  and  stories.

The  cultural knowledge of  the Ngarrindjeri’s close relationship to the land and their history of being in this place from  colonial Australia to today is very different to mine. I   lack the cultural knowledge and understanding that is required to appreciate the  significance of the Ngarrindjeri’s Dreaming   narratives about Ngurunderi’s ( the Ngarrindjeri’s Ancestral Hero) creative travels along the Lower Murray, the Coorong and the Fleurieu Peninsula.   The significant landmarks of this place –eg.,  Kungkengguwar  (Rosetta Head), held considerable spiritual significance   for the Ngarrindjeri people before tourists took them over for their own.

So I have my own personal significations as a way to conceptualise Australian landscape photography.