PhotoAccess. Canberra. 22 – 23 September 2018. ‘Take creative control…
Time and Tide
Photographs by David Tatnall
Colour Factory Gallery
409-429 Gore Street, Fitzroy. Victoria
6 July – 5 August 2017
Photograph above: West Cove, Erith Island 2012. Silver gelatin photograph.
Time and Tide: essay by Philip Ingamells
The seashore is always changing.
The greatest transformations take place over aeons. In colder ages the massive sheets of ice cloaking Antarctica grew kilometres deep, oceans receded and continents grew. When those ice-sheets melted again, rising tides sent coastlines inland.
Only twelve thousand years ago, towards the end of the last ice age, Aboriginal people strolled a grassy plain between today’s mainland and Tasmania. Erith Island, now storm-washed in the middle of Bass Strait, was then a mountain rising high above that plain.
But there are less grand changes along our shores every minute, every day.
Waves crash, sands move, and tides swamp all.
In this highly unstable and seemingly inhospitable environment, all manner of creatures live. Plants and animals, strange beyond our imagining, find niches deep in sand, tucked into rock crevices, or nested in rock pool gardens before they surrender to the rising swell.
Some, like crabs and shorebirds, are nimble and mobile. Others, clinging tight to rocks, spend hours bathed in the cool deep before baking under a relentless, searing sun.
Somehow, through cataclysm and calm, swept daily by tides and shaped through millennia, this ever-changing meeting place of the land and the sea remains compellingly beautiful.
We all know that, but it takes an artist to capture the spirit, the mystery, that essential quality that calls us time and again to walk the shoreline.
In the rapidly warming world we live in, storms and a rising sea will push coasts further inland. But this time seaside towns, roads and farms will bring resistance to that change. Protective walls and barricades will rise, bringing a hard, unflinching, sharp edge to the land.
David Tatnall’s richly beautiful photographs invite us into the ancient, ever-changing conversation between the land and the sea.
And they show us what we might lose, if we don’t act.
Painted Cliffs. Maria Island 2012. Silver gelatin photograph
Time and Tide: artist statement by David Tatnall
The coast is endlessly changing. Sand patterns that seem perfect today are replaced by tomorrow’s tide with new perfect patterns.
It seemed appropriate to make photographs for this body of work with cameras that are slow; both to use and in the time they require to record what is before them.
Some of the photographs appear to be less sharp than others as they were made using a lens-less pinhole camera often requiring exposure time in tens of minutes. The pleasure of the pinhole technique lies in long exposure times and indefinite depth of field. It gives the images a softness and depth that is unique.
Other photographs have been made using a large format field camera, with several lenses. Slow to set up, attention must be paid to focus, to see the image as it is presented in the camera – upside down, back to front. It gives the images weight.
The work has been made over several years. Often sequences of images are made, looked at and put aside, revisited and reassessed as other sequences are made.
Time and Tide draws photographs from the beautifully named Point Ricardo at Cape Conran to remote and wild Erith Island in Bass Strait, from Antarctica to abandoned jetties in Corio Bay. Southern shorelines.
Often I return from trips having made no photographs … waiting til the light is right … waiting for the tide to turn. On days of slow moving grey clouds and slowly moving water it is hard to tell them apart.
All the prints in this exhibition have been hand made in the last few months in my darkroom and printed on silver rich photographic paper, using toning methods that have enhanced the long tonal range distinct to large format film photography.