The People you Meet Crossing the Nullarbor

After two days driving across the Nullarbor Plain and a night sleeping in the car, we had arrived at the first real sign of civilisation, Norseman. Here we were able to find a campsite and enjoy the comforts that we had been missing since Adelaide. It also gave us the chance to meet and talk to people that were going to cross the Nullarbor or already had.

Crossing the Nullarbor

Norseman was the gateway to the Nullarbor. The last stop before you began your thousand mile journey into the true Australian Outback. For us it was the first town we had come to since South Australia, though it only had a small population of about six hundred.

The campsite was filled with people travelling through but the man in the tent next to us caught our attention. He was in his sixties, maybe even older, and was travelling on a four wheeled sit down bike that resembled a go-kart. He had just arrived in Norseman after pedalling through the Nullarbor, but his journey was far from over. He was cycling around the entire coast of Australia!

Crossing the Nullarbor
Our route across the Nullarbor

The size of the journey and the fact that he would only cover about seventy miles a day was hard for me to comprehend. The distance we had travelled in two days by car would likely take him two weeks. He would be alone for days in the middle of nowhere with only the rumble of road trains and rush of cars as they passed him. But he spoke about his journey matter of factly and the size of it seemed to have little impact on him.

He told of his journey across the Nullarbor and an experience he had had recently when he stopped at a roadhouse for breakfast.  A roadhouse was a one stop shop for travellers, petrol station, store, rest stop, and sometimes a restaurant and motel were available. For us it was often the location of the Nullarbor Links and where we could get our game cards validated.

Usually Roadhouses were found every one hundred miles or so, perfect if you were travelling by car as you were only an hour away from somewhere. Travelling by bike it was a different story. He had arrived at a roadhouse in the morning hoping to grab some breakfast but the kitchen wasn’t open yet. The cook told him there was another just down the road (another hundred miles) and by the time he reached it it would be open, not realising that he was travelling by bike and that was a days journey for him.

Crossing the Nullarbor

As we drove out of Norseman I was thinking about the man we spoke to and the magnitude of his journey. Highway 1 a network of roads that joins the mainland capital cities of Australia is approximately 9,000 miles, if his was his route it was already the same distance from Perth to London!

His journey had made me realised what we had just done wasn’t that unique. The size and emptiness of Australia was daunting to us but not for others.  For many Australians crossing the Nullarbor was a simple task, something they were so comfortable with they would even do it by bike.

Even though we had crossed the Nullarbor Plain and the hardest driving was behind us we still had over four hundred miles before we reached Perth, where our journey officially came to an end. During this stretch we would be travelling through an area that was more inhabited and even cross through a few small towns along the way, including Kalgoorlie Australia’s mining capital.

Further Reading:

My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route.

Crossing the Nullarbor

The journey continues with The Endless Emptiness of Crossing the Nullarbor.

The Endless Emptiness of Crossing the Nullarbor

The Nullarbor Plain is an area of arid desert stretching across South Australia and Western Australia. To the south lies the Great Australian Bight, an area of unique natural beauty and diversity, and to the north the Great Victoria Desert.

Crossing the Nullarbor
The Great Australian Bight

I knew very little about the Nullarbor before a friend asked if I wanted to cross it. A mutual friend of ours had offered their car, while they went to the States for six months, and was happy for us to drive it from Melbourne to Perth, over 2,000 miles away.

The Nullarbor can be crossed at two points, the Eyre Highway or the Trans-Australian Railway, both via the Nullarbor Plain. Our route would be the highway named after Edward John Eyre, the first European to make the crossing back in 1841. Officially the highway starts in Norseman, a town 450 miles east of Perth, before travelling 1,300 miles to Port Augusta in South Australia.

Crossing the Nullarbor prior to 1976 would have been a completely different experience. The first ‘road’ was completed in 1942, though it was only a dirt track, it was suitable for cars. It wasn’t until the  early 1960s that efforts to seal the highway began. They started in Norseman but the Western Australian section wasn’t sealed until 1969, it was a further seven years before the South Australian section was finished and the highway was completed.

Crossing the Nullarbor
Nullarbor Sunset

It wasn’t just the road that had changed. It was the way of life too. Many towns were established along with the introduction of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 and eventually to service those travelling on the Eyre Highway. With the decline in train services the small settlements got even smaller. Cook in South Australia was reliant on servicing the trains passing through, it once boasted a population of fifty but in 2009 it was said only four people still live there.

We would be travelling from the Mornington Peninsula, an area south of Melbourne, first spending two weeks on the Great Ocean Road and a few days in Adelaide before finally crossing the Nullarbor. After that we were onto Perth where our journey officially ended.

Crossing the Nullarbor

We had a 1991 Nissan with no air conditioning and only one window crank that we had to share between the other windows. Not only that there were four of us plus our luggage that spilled over from the boot to the back seat and into the footwells, just leaving us room for the passengers. 

Everyone we met before leaving had thought we were crazy. The Nullarbor had a reputation among Australians and there weren’t many that would even consider crossing it. Our group of four was made up of one Australian and three ‘poms’, as we were known, another factor not in our favour.

Due to the risk of kangaroos we wouldn’t be driving at night and would avoid driving at dusk, a time of day when kangaroos were most active and very difficult to spot. We would also be playing the Nullarbor Links, an eighteen hole golf course stretching over 800 miles. Each hole was situated at a roadhouse along the route, averaging 40 miles apart with the furthest 120 miles apart. This would not only encourage us to stop and rest but also help us support the fading economy.

Crossing the Nullarbor
Leaving Madura

I had heard and read so much about the Nullarbor before leaving but one image was painted clearly, its endless emptiness. This was something I wanted to capture. On the road driving hundreds of miles a day I wanted to record our journey through this unique landscape, from the backseat. An unbiased view of what Crossing the Nullarbor was really like.

Further Reading:

My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route. One of my favourites that features on the cover is from Lake Cowan which is now waterless.Crossing the Nullarbor

Quarantine

During this unusual time photography has been a welcome distraction, even though in a limited capacity. Conversation with other photographers has been another, largely through the #believeinfilm community. This is where I found out about Quarantine.

As Lockdown and Coronavirus took hold of the world an idea was floated. A zine featuring images from around the world submitted by photographers in the film community. Once designed the zine would be printed using the original technique of photocopying the pages in black and white. It would become a document to the unique time we were in with each image providing a different perspective.

Quarantine

Quarantine issue #1

The idea was launched and submissions around the theme of quarantine were called for. I wanted to contribute something that showed isolation and the state of how things were. Shops were largely closed and high streets became empty and desolate, more so than usual, and that’s what I looked for in my image.

It was quickly decided that other issues would be planned, each with a new theme that would highlight different areas of the pandemic. The organiser was based in Hong Kong and it took a few weeks for this issue to arrive, I actually got it after the second. This was something that changed for subsequent issues due to Hong Kong’s postal restrictions.

Quarantine issue #2

Saving Graces. During Lockdown face to face conversation quickly became a thing of the past. I am not usually a person to be on the phone but I found myself calling family regularly and even talking to friends that I wouldn’t normally call. To keep those connections I was missing my phone became my saving grace.

Quarantine

Quarantine issue #3

For the third issue the theme was Zone. It was the opportunity for us to share where we were form and the places we where limited to during the last few weeks. Usually I would head into Portsmouth when wanting to showcase the area in which I live but for this I wanted to keep it more local.

I was walking over a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks as the barriers were down. It was my chance to catch the train coming down the tracks. Then another train appeared from around the corner, they converged at the same point. I wanted an image that looked over its surroundings, showing typical houses and other subtle details that could define my local area.

Quarantine

This was my favourite issue so far as I was able to get a glimpse into the lives of the other contributors. It also gave a look into how other places in the world were copping as there were submissions from photographers from around the globe.

Quarantine issue #4

The theme for the next issue has been decided and I have already submitted my photograph, this time even including a short text. It is currently in the design process and has no shipping date as of yet.

Quarantine

These zines will be a lasting collection of photographs and stories from around the world detailing the lives of its contributors. They are individual and unique just like the circumstances we are currently facing. It’s unclear for how much longer Quarantine will continue. Though in some places restrictions have decreased life still won’t continue as it once did and it would be great to see it documented in this way.

Further reading:

Essential features other photographs taken throughout lockdown.

At the moment you can find each issue at the following links. They are all hosted by different contributors and may not be available permanently.

Quarantine issue #1

Quarantine issue #2 Saving Graces

Quarantine issue #3 The Zone

Quarantine issue #4 (coming soon)

The zine has been backed by the Film Community Fund.

Essential

With things the way they are it has affected everything about our lives. It dictates the places you could go, the things you could do, and took away many of the things that people enjoyed. We were forced to adapt, and in order to continue with things we loved we had to find new ways to do them.

For photographers we had to get creative, more than usual. Many had begun to photograph around the house, revisit old photos and bring a new life to them, and even use FaceTime to take portraits. I, like many others, used my daily exercise to take photos and being limited to my local area wasn’t a problem.

I had recently been using my camera to discover my local area (more on that soon!) and inspired by the news I had an idea for a theme. With a few locations in mind I gradually added them into my daily route and over the next few weeks managed to visit them all.

I wanted to try and capture the emptiness that we don’t see everyday. With a shopping culture that is pretty much 24/7, or as close to it as it can be, we don’t see shops closed and car parks empty. The impacts of a lockdown had huge repercussions, especially through the retail and hospitality industry.

When lockdown was introduced in the UK there was speculation and discussion over what an “essential” service was and some stores argued the right to stay open. Over time some places were able to introduce social distancing procedures that allowed them to protect their employees and customers and began to reopen. Others weren’t able to even though at first they had tried.

One place that became important to the project was the old parchment makers in Havant. Since it was on a busy road as well as the high street it has been difficult to capture it with as little car and foot traffic as possible. Havant was once the location for a parchment makers known for its high quality white paper, the ground floor of the current building is now occupied by a Weatherspoon’s.

Each of these images represents a different aspect of how social distancing and lockdown has impacted various retail and hospitality businesses. Once normality returns I believe it will happen quite quickly. It will be these images and others like it that remind us of what life was like.

Further reading:

Each month I am creating a limited print, or in this case, a print series. These are usually shot on film and will be limited in number only available for that month. This months feature is my Essential Series.

A great project I have been following from another photographer is Matt Day’s Social Distancing book.

Documentary in Colour

In early 2004 I was studying photography at college and our final assessment was titled  Documentary in Colour. After researching photographers and shooting a number of concepts I decided on my final direction. 

At that time the City of Portsmouth was going through a moment of historical change. Over by the Historical Dockyards they were constructing the Spinnaker Tower. The 170m tall building was designed to resemble a ship’s sail and when finished it would provide views over the surrounding Solent, on a clear day you would be able to see over to the Isle of Wight.

Documentary in Colour
The Spinnaker Tower, 2004

In the centre of Portsmouth demolition was about to begin on the neglected Tricorn, a shopping centre and car park that had become a heated topic in the city. After years of indecision it was purposed that the Tricorn would be replaced by a modern shopping centre.

Documentary in Colour
The Tricorn, 2004

My aim was to photograph the change the city of Portsmouth was going through at that time, focusing on those two buildings. Due to the time constraints of a college program I wasn’t able to follow the buildings through the whole process of construction and demolition, only capture them as there were at that point. 

At this time I was shooting on film, as digital photography was a fairly new concept, and though the project was Documentary in Colour I shot a few films in black and white as we were able to process and print these in the college darkroom. These Images would later become BRUTAL, a small zine documenting the Tricorn at this time.

Looking back now I couldn’t have chosen two better subjects. The Spinnaker Tower has gone on to become a symbol of the city of Portsmouth and a place I often find myself photographing.

Documentary in Colour
The Spinnaker Tower, 2020

The Tricorn on the other hand has become a lost relic. Still causing debate between people that loved or hated the building. The shopping centre that was planned never came to be and for the last fifteen years the space has been a ‘temporary’ car park.

Documentary in Colour
Site of the now demolished Tricorn, 2019

As my photography has taken me full circle with me now largely photographing architecture, especially brutalism, I have recalled these images of the Tricorn. Bringing them to life and finding an audience of enthusiasts. They have become a piece of history, documentation of the city at that point in time, realising the aim of the project that I set out to complete in 2004 as a young college student. 

Further reading:

More details about the Tricorn and my project BRUTAL.

What the Twentieth Century Society had to say about the Tricorn.

It’s too Late to Save Welbeck Street Car Park

Brutal Oxford

Oxford was my first day trip of the year. Its university is well known and brings people from all over the world to the city. With the growth of Oxford University buildings were needed, many of which date back to its early beginnings. There are examples of many different architectural styles but I was there for one in particular.

Though there is a wealth of historical architecture I was most interested in that of a brutal nature. Oxford University has played a large part in the buildings of the city, and that is true even right up until the modern day. My research started with the Denys Wilkinson Building and grew from there.

Denys Wilkinson Building

The Denys Wilkinson Building is home to the astrophysics and particle physics departments of Oxford University. Designed by Philip Dowson and built in the late 60s it became a prominent example of new brutalism in Oxford. Originally it was named the Nuclear Physics Laboratory as it was going to house the department of nuclear physics. In 2001 the name was changed in honour of British nuclear physicist Sir Denys Wilkinson.

Denys Wilkinson Building - Brutal Oxford

The fan shaped structure is home to a Van de Graaff generator.

Denys Wilkinson Building - Brutal Oxford

Thom Building

Located at the north end of the building is the Thom Building which is home to the Department of Engineering Science. The building is named after Alexander Thom, a Scottish engineer who was a professor at Oxford University.

Thom Building - Brutal Oxford

Oxford Centre for Innovation

The only building featured that isn’t linked to an educational institution. The Oxford Centre for Innovation provides offices and workspaces with the aim to support growing businesses.

Oxford Centre for Innovation - Brutal Oxford

Oxford Centre for Innovation - Brutal Oxford

Thomas White Building

The Thomas White Building is Grade II listed and belongs to St John’s College, providing accommodation for its students. The 1960s saw a rise in student admissions and accommodation was needed urgently, Philip Dowson’s design was chosen which created 154 flats.

Brutal Oxford

The Thomas White Building was featured on Historic England’s list of 20 intriguing places in 2017.

Brutal Oxford

Margery Fry House

Officially the  building is called Margery Fry & Elizabeth Nuffield House and it provides accommodation for Somerville college. Slightly back from Little Claredon Street is Vaughan House, similar in style and design only larger in size. Both buildings were also designed by Philip Dowson.

Margery Fry House - Brutal Oxford

Margery Fry House - Brutal Oxford

A concrete exterior frame surrounds both buildings and they sit above a row of shops on street level.

Margery Fry House - Brutal Oxford

 

Further Reading:

I have written about a few other examples of brutal architecture in England and you can find them here:

It’s too Late to Save Welbeck Street Car Park

Saving the Three Ships

The Tricorn

CCTV Building

CCTV Building
CCTV Building

The CCTV building is the China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters located near to the Third Ring Road in Beijing’s new Central Business District. The unique design involves two L-shaped towers connected at the top and the bottom to form a continuous structure.

At its tallest point the building is 234m high with the two towers connecting on the 51st floor, 163m above the ground. The grounds and gardens below were designed to double as filming grounds for the corporation.

CCTV Building

 

During my trip to Beijing visiting the CCTV building was high on my list, I was even luckily enough to visit it both at day and night. It’s wasn’t like anything I had seen or photographed before and I knew it would be an important inclusion when putting together Offbeat.

CCTV Building

 

Further reading:

My book OFFBEAT featuring the CCTV Building in Beijing is now out of print but you can find more details about it HERE.

Koolhaas, Delirious in Beijing from the New York Times.

From conception to construction: China Central Television (CCTV) Headquarters.

From the architects OMA.

Crossing the Nullarbor

Over the last few weeks I have been working on something I have been trying to bring to light for ten years. In 2009 I crossed the Nullarbor in Australia by car, a stretch of desert crossing South Australia and Western Australia. We would be driving for three days, 1200 km, through an unchanging landscape and I wanted to document that somehow.

I came up with the idea of photographing the road from the back seat of our car. Taken at regular intervals it would be an unbiased view of what the landscape was like and if it was really as barren as people had told me.

Straight after the trip I made prints of the photos and kept them in an envelope buried away with the intention of one day building them into something bigger. Over the last year Crossing the Nullarbor began to take shape, and finally, a few weeks ago I finished my copy. I wrote the text and typed it up using a typewriter, drew the maps and bound it all together.

Once it was finished I could see an idea realised and its potential for a larger audience. I began recreating the pages digitally with the intention of releasing it as a small zine. Last year I had released my first zine BRUTAL and had enjoyed the process. It was great how easy it was for photographers to release their own work once they had found their audience.

But then something happened.

I sat there with a finished idea, ready to click the print button, but I changed my mind. This was an idea that had been interesting to me for years and I had something I was very happy with.

But I began to doubt if that was of interest to anyone else.

The fear of creating something so personal to me and it not being received how I hoped it would be began to outweigh the reasons to publish it. With doubt overshadowing the project I buried it away again not knowing how to proceed.

Further reading:

This isn’t the first time I have talked about Crossing the Nullarbor where you can read about the trip in a little more detail.

HOW-TO: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO PRINTING A PHOTOGRAPHY ZINE from Emulsive

I have released two other zines, Offbeat from my trip to Beijing and BRUTAL featuring photographs from the Tricorn.

Järvenpää Church

Järvenpää Church is located in the Finnish town of Järvenpää, 40km north of the capital Helsinki. The church was designed by the Finnish architect Erkki Elomaa and construction was completed in 1968. Though the outside is brutal in nature the inside is furnished in wood and has room for over six hundred people.

Järvenpää ChurchJärvenpää Church

The church tower houses four bells that came from Austria and six different tunes were composed by Joonas Kokkonen.

Järvenpää Church

In 2009 Järvenpää Church was voted the ugliest church in Finland.

Järvenpää Church

Since seeing Järvenpää Church for the first time I have been back regularly to photograph the building throughout the seasons. I am lucky enough that when I am in Finland I am only a short drive from the Church.

Further reading:

I have released a number of images from Järvenpää Church as prints including this series.

For more images visit #SOSBRUTALISM

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