Adelaide is now my home town. Though it is the capitol city of the state of South Australia it is a small regional city; one that is trying to reinvent its rust bucket image from the steady decline of the manufacturing industry –white good and cars –in the 1980s to the present. In all likelihood it will be huge expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam (copper, gold and uranium) that will enable the state to have a different future.
I started photographing the city by photography the urban neighbourhood in the central business district where I live in a townhouse. This area –the central market precinct–is in a process of change: more people are moving into the city to live, the lawyers are set up their offices, and the international students are buying and renting the newly built apartments. That change got me started on my urban wandering with a camera.
Gradually the photography took on a broader focus of exploring the CBD area itself and I took to wandering the streets with a camera. The Situationists called this wandering dérive, by which they meant an unplanned journey through an urbanscape that an individual travels; unplanned aimless strolls (photo walks) that act to edge us out of the banalities of everyday life. The subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding urban architecture and geography subconsciously direct my walking and wandering.
The purpose of dérive is to experience an entirely new and authentic experience of the different atmospheres or ambiances in which we are stepped. These collective and public moods (Stimmung in Heidegger) constitute how the world matters to us, and how we find ourselves in the world. The process is one of letting myself be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters I find there. It is away we find ourselves in a world as world.
Through moods that we are attuned with the world. Moods provide the background against which specific events affect us. They colour how events or situations show up for us, ‘close off’ other possibilities, and open up the world in a particular way. They bring us face-to-face with ourselves as being-in-the world.
Psychogeography for the Situationists was a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes people as pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urbanscape.
This conception of urban wandering refers back to the older concept in Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin of the flâneur who makes social and aesthetic observations during long walks through Paris.
The street photographer is seen as one modern extension of the urban observer, and with the development of hand-held (Leica) cameras in the early 20th century, the camera has become the tool of the flâneur. Susan Sontag in her 1977 essay, On Photography, claims that the flâneur with a camera finds the world picturesque.
My urban photography emerged out of the Situationist conception of urban wandering and through it I started to represent my Adelaide.