Finding Structural Form in the Bush Landscape – Greg Wayn

Finding Structural Form in the Bush Landscape – Greg Wayn

The death of my dear friend Ian Lobb is still having a great deal of affect on me despite the number of weeks passing. I am fortunate to have one of his darkroom prints (Eagle’s Nest, 1975) and a poster from his ‘’Black Range’ series (Drooping She-OaksBlack Range State Park, from the series Black Range 1986-1989) in my front hallway. I go past it every day and not only does it make me think of him but of the wonderful work he made. 

Back in 2018,I had travelled to the Black Range State Park in the hope of seeing some of the sites Ian might have photographed. While I found nothing similar to his work, I later discovered that a fire had gone through there on New Year’s Eve 2006-2007 had pretty much obliterated the She-Oaks (Casuarinas) he photographed.

The landscape I found was harsh and monumental. There was the evidence of fire everywhere with large rocks and blackened trees in abundance and a general feeling being of an abrasive space, full of compositional difficulties.

These memories have caused me to revisit a long term project dealing with the difficulty of photographing aspects of the Australian bush landscape. I had made some digital images in the Black Range State Park (2018) and some on Flinders Island 2016), that related to earlier analogue landscapes that were part of an ongoing body of work (as seen in this post).

Many aspects of the Australian bush are chaotic, messy and lacking in any of the ‘traditional notions of beauty’ associated with the landscape. Harsh Australian light is another factor to be considered. Finding structural form in many of these environments can be quite challenging.


As a background to help the viewer understand my motivations at the time and some of the factors that were in my mind, I add the following.  I had been reading about the fractal analysis of forms in nature as a way of understanding natural structures. I was also heavily influenced by much of Jackson Pollock’s work (Blue Poles in particular) and the way he made visual sense of complex abstract structures. 

Jackson Pollock. Blue Poles number 11. 1957. National Gallery of Australia collection.

There have been numerous articles written about Chaos Theory and the fractal analysis of Pollock’s ‘drip paintings’. (Here is a link toProfessor Richard Taylor’s work on the matter.)

The conclusions of these analyses was that there were consistent (low) fractal numbers generated in Pollack’s paintings that replicated those found in nature. These findings were very much a rejection of those who said ‘anyone could paint like Pollack, even a child’. This was no surprise to me, as with all gifted artists, there was a natural rhythm to Pollack’s ‘drippings’ and careful, intuitive control over spatial relationships and forms in the work. An inherent structure was always present amongst the more chaotic elements. Pollack’s work may be read as a pure abstract, colour field, energy state, or even as a landscape. 

Works by Fred Williams were also very much in mind as well as photographic work by Frederick Sommer (particularly the series made in the Arizona desert). These factors and visual forms were always present in my mind when making this work.

Frederick Sommer. Arizona Landscape. 1943

As a painter, Fred Williams made radical new forms in depicting aspects of the Australian landscape. In many of his paintings and prints, he managed to combine apparent aerial, macro, wide and normal views all into one canvas, along with various spatial illusions and motifs of multiple ‘horizons’ and viewpoints. I consider him a groundbreaker in this regard.

Fed Williams. Echuca Landscape. 1961. Queensland Art Gallery collection.

Other artists who have influenced my thinking in this series include Paul Partos and Cy Twombly.

At the time, I felt that these guiding motifs and approaches would help me find form and structure in the landscape.

There is much ongoing discussion about the problems and meanings of photographing the contemporary landscape and the many philosophical and environmental issues involved at this point in time. 

Gary Sauer-Thompson has some very eloquent and pertinent writing on these matters. These can be found on the View Camera Australia site, in his article ‘Mount Arapiles, photography and the dark pastoral’ (parts 1 & 2).

It is interesting for me to look back at the analogue work I made over 40 years ago and while my understanding of the landscape has changed, these images are still very much pertinent to me and connected to my current work.


The images in this article were made in 1985 & 1986 on a 4×5 camera. Film was developed in a pyro based developer. 

All images are from scanned 4×5 negatives.

Note also that they are recently re-edited versions. 

While the original darkroom prints are still quite satisfactory to me, the ability to use accurate luminosity masks in Photoshop now has allowed a much greater degree of control over tonal relationships and tonal mapping, allowing me to more fully realise my original intentions.

As my most recent work is digital, they are not really relevant to View Camera Australia’s purpose. 

However, if anyone has any interest in seeing the digital work for comparison, they can be viewed on my website (, under the ‘Landscapes 5’ section), and the ‘Black Range’ series, or on my Blog.

Greg Wayn. Gypsy Point. 1985. Scan of 4×5 negative.
Greg Wayn. Mount Alexander 1985. Scan of 4×5 negative.
Greg Wayn. Chewton 1986. Scan of 4×5 negative.
Greg Wayn. Loch Sport 1986. Scan of 4×5 negative.
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Greg Wayn is a Melbourne based fine art photographer.

There are 11 comments for this article
  1. Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:08 am

    Hi Greg,
    a wonderfully informative article with well thought out images.

    You write:

    “It is interesting for me to look back at the analogue work I made over 40 years ago and while my understanding of the landscape has changed, these images are still very much pertinent to me and connected to my current work.”

    You don’t say in this post how your understanding of the Australian bush landscape has changed between the 1980s and 2016-18. Are you able to share with us what this changed understanding is? I would be most interested in what you have to say.

    • Greg Wayn at 12:53 am

      Thanks Gary, it is an interesting question you ask of me.
      While I was very aware of the seriousness of environmental issues back in the 1980’s (and frustrated by the lack of any serious response from any government agencies), that feeling has just become more urgent. As much of my work is about resolving spatial relationships, it is not specifically environmentally focused, but I always hoped they would make people think about the spaces we occupy.
      In the back of my mind, photographing any contemporary landscape is becoming a more fraught issue.
      So many photographers present the landscape in photographically refined and artificially edited terms (‘overly beautiful?’) and it concerns me that this factor just makes too many not worry about the seriousness of environmental issues. They become massaged into thinking there is so much ‘beauty’ out there that we don’t need to worry at all. Local artist Harry Nankin (, who should be much better known for his powerful and thoughtful work has much to say about these issues in his environmentally focused work.

      • Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:26 am

        thanks for your response.

        The issue you raise — re the beauty of nature and damaged environments — is one that I constantly struggle with without finding a way to formally resolve the conflict or opposition. Its like wandering round in a maze going nowhere. Hence my interest in both your structural form approach to the landscape and how you responded to, and picked up on, Ian Lobb’s Black Range series.

        I do know some of Harry Nankin’s visually and conceptually sophisticated work — especially the way he is able to poetically enunciate the ecological tragedy confronting particular environments – eg., the Mallee country and its ecosystems around Lake Tyrrell in Victoria —with his camera-less photographic film images .

        I have a deep respect for Nankin’s approach to nature where he is acting — in the words of Freya Mathews — not merely as spectator but as co-respondents.

  2. Brian Rowland at 12:02 pm

    Great inspirational article Greg and as I mentioned in one of our conversations the late Joyce Evans had a strong view that the Australian landscape was “yet to be discovered”.

    I think Ian Lobb made a great contribution to this challenge with his Black Ranges series but your recent high key reinterpretation of earlier landscape work covers some new ground.

    The images you have presented are clear evidence that the Australian landscape holds many secrets.
    But it takes a lot of work, knowledge and dedication to reveal the hidden abstract patterns often buried amongst the chaos of the Australian bush.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. Greg Wayn at 12:41 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Brian, and very interesting to hear of your past conversation with Joyce Evans in relationship to this issue. She always had such an informed understanding and clearly had given the notion of photographing the Australian landscape much thought.

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