Photographing along the Canning River – Alex Bond

Photographing along the Canning River – Alex Bond

Not So Pretty

Australia is blessed with its own unique and distinctive landscape. We are also a nation of travellers, within our own country and abroad, seeking new experiences. Yet, sometimes in the rush to see fresh and new scenery, we overlook what is right in front of us.

I am talking about the familiar, everyday landscapes in places where we live.  Those landforms and urban structures which are part of our daily life and routine. They are not on the tourist trail, or in glossy travel brochures. Nor are they necessarily photogenic at first glance. 

Winter Play

Close to Home

It is just such a subject which has drawn my photographic attention and become a long-term, ongoing photographic project. Spanning more than 15 years, I have been photographing the Canning River Regional Park. The park is a few minutes walk from my home and less than 10km from the Perth CBD.  It is a strip of remnant bushland forming a buffer between the river and highways, residential and commercial land uses.

At least once a day I either cycle or walk through it. The reserve runs along both sides of the Canning River for about 6km. There are river views, woodlands, samphire wetlands, boardwalks and pathways.

Sheoaks and South African Hesperantha Falcata

Regular Visits

One of the biggest advantages of photographing a subject I see daily is that I can appreciate its subtle changes. Grasses grow tall and green, then dry out into undulating, textured layers. Trees and bushes come in and out of seasonal bloom. Winter rains recharge the shallow samphire wetlands. Fire reduces woodlands to black skeletal remains on a silvery carpet of ash.

My connection to the landscape grows as each repeated visit gives me a greater appreciation for my subject. With this comes a greater awareness, a topic I have written about previously.

I believe that the greater the awareness, or empathy, a photographer holds for their subject, the better the photographs. As I look back over the time period of this project so far, some of my most personally satisfying images have come from this local park. 

Fallen Branch

My Approach

Black and white photography is more abstract than colour and was the obvious choice for me. My preference is to explore the landscape’s nuances of tone, texture and form without the distraction of colour.

I predominantly use 4×5 inch and 6x6cm camera formats, hand processing my black and white films in dilute developers for extended periods.

All the silver gelatin prints are personally printed by me in my darkroom. I use fibre-based papers. For exhibitions, I dry mount my prints onto museum board before window mounting and framing.

Author printing in darkroom

A Natural Progression

At first, my photographs consisted of individual images. Other than personal visual explorations I made photographs with no clear intentions or purpose.

My photographic project grew in an organic way as my pictures increased.  The idea of showing them in a small book had taken shape.  

I published “Lost in Suburbia”, a collection of 40 photographs of landscapes, people and activities within the Canning River Regional Park. There was a book launch at the local library with a selection of hand-printed silver gelatin prints on display. As a result of this display, I was invited to exhibit my prints at the newly built Canning Eco Education Centre, located at the river. 

Later, I held a solo photographic exhibition, Dissociation, at Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery, Perth. This was a larger exhibition of nearly 30 silver gelatin prints. I also produced Dissociation, a hardcover, 64-page facsimile of the original exhibition catalogue. 

Dissociation – Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery

Photograph Locally

Revisiting familiar subjects offers an important opportunity to see potential subject matter under different light, seasons and environmental conditions. If you are receptive to your environment and have cultivated awareness, there is a chance you may experience a reinterpretation of the light, shape and textures you see, turning the everyday into something special.

Sheoak Wetlands

Looking back over the life of this project so far, it surprises me that some of my most rewarding compositions have been created just minutes from my suburban home. It doesn’t get much better than that, when you realise that some of the most productive subject matter is so close to your home. I can highly recommend photographing locally.

Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond’s handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

Bannister Creek
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Alex Bond is a Perth based fine art photographer.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Mark Darragh at 9:57 am

    Great essay and folio of images, Alex. Your work on the Canning River is a reminder of the importance of local parks and green spaces , areas that often seems to be overlooked and undervalued in a country with such an urbanised population.

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