The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that my planned interstate travel in April 2020 to photograph old industrial Melbourne had to be cancelled. SA's borders are closed and Melbourne still has several outbreak Covid-19 hotspots. The national lockdown has meant very limited travel--initially staying at home, exercising in one's postcode and photographing locally. Once the restrictions started to ease in South Australia to allow limited travel within the state's borders, I wondered if I could introduce something new to keep the drosscape project going--ie., I could build on my old Port Adelaide photographs, and then link them to those of industrial Melbourne?
Would that change the nature of this low key project? Would it become a project about memory: a project haunted by the past. If it was possible to photographed the Port anew, then what would that look like and how would it link to the old?
I had photographed the industrial landscape of old Port Adelaide in the 1980s. Then the Port was characterised by obsolescence, decline and grime. What of the present Port Adelaide, which was in the process of being re-branded through an obliteration of the Port's history and its industrial and maritime working class character?
I returned to Port Adelaide after stage 1 of the easing of restrictions, and I wandered around some of the areas where I'd photographed over a decade ago. Though I made the odd photo whilst I was there, I was more or less reconnecting with, and picking up the traces of the photographic past.
The picture below of the Port River estuary is from the archives, and it was the first location that I returned to and checked out. Had anything changed? If so, what? Were there new photographic possibilities?
Not really was my response. I needed to move on.
As I wandered around I kept wondering whether I could re-connect with this archival body of work that was made whilst I was living in Adelaide's CBD. Could I build on the documentary work that I had been doing then? If so, what would be the concept behind the documentary photography of this old industrial area and that of Melbourne? Heritage photography?
All I did that day was to walk around some of the areas where I'd been photographing circa 2009 and checked them out. This archival picture is another location that I initially thought may have offered me some new photographic possibilities.
Once again it was not to be. What I realized is that I would have to search for new locations and find new subject matter.
A lot had changed in Port Adelaide over the last decade. There were many new buildings in Port Adelaide itself, as well as in the industrial areas. A lot of the land along the Port River estuary had been fenced off, and it was no longer accessible to the public. It slowly dawned on me that the Port Adelaide I knew in the 1980s and in the first decade of the 21st century belonged to the past. The old, grungy, industrial Port Adelaide of the 20th century was disappearing.
If Port Adelaide was in the process of being transformed, then it was the property development along the waterfront that stood out. The Port was being reframed as a place of leisured consumption. The Jenkins Street boatyards precinct may have gone but Hart's Mill was still standing!
The post-industrial development and gentrification of Port Adelaide, with its lifestyle of middle class consumption, was taking place despite the wishes of the local residents for the character of old Port Adelaide to be retained and respected. The governmentally of the Port Adelaide Waterfront Development acted to minimise and delegitimise the various local communities' claims to cultural heritage significance of working class culture and the historic fabric of the Port.
So where does that post-industrial transformation leave this interlude in the drosscape project? Just wait out the current lockdown in Melbourne? Or continue to explore the Port Adelaide region when I could.