Artists and Place Studies

Media's treatment of place

 Media’s treatment of place

Unknown,  Stonehenge, UK,  year unknown, found 35mm slide

Unknown, Stonehenge, UK, year unknown, found 35mm slide

This is an Australian tourist’s vernacular, photographic study of Stonehenge in an era when crowds had free access to the site. This image carries a freshness and a freedom and makes the visit appear more attractive that it now may be. I can almost smell pipe smoke and the scent of Tweed perfume. The megaliths, themselves, seem more believable, but it is perhaps the plaster covered mesh tourist objects that have since jaded my appreciation of large objects.

When I first investigated the Mid North of South Australia as part of my studies, I collected all the tourism brochures that I could find, ones sponsored by the local and stage governments, as well as privately prepared brochures. I looked at the areas they mentioned, the sorts of landmarks they championed, as well as the key descriptive words they used in relation to the area. In the Mid North’s case the same works reappeared, especially so in the small towns that held a quiet presence without holding more popular recreational areas. Ancient, quiet solitude, massive peaks, bush with abundant fauna and flora, recharging, quiet sanctuary were the local benefits they spoke of. New York would have different words on their brochures I would suggest.

Counter to a modest Australian regional area, I have also voracious engaged with the information promoting luxurious tours across historically significant cities and archaeology sites across Europe. They key words and phrases were vastly different from my Australian experience: full glory of art only seen in its location, sheer antiquity and breadth of civilisation seen, feeling of being in a different world, true landscapes of war, secret cities and painted facades of towns, upland scenery of constant and consistently beautiful backdrop…these momentums were to promote the best possible engagement for specifically matched travellers.

It is not just the aims of the tourism industry that builds up the meanings within place, for media’s treatment of places includes all manner of cultural activities. Instagram travellers, journalists, authors, graphic designers, musicians, poets, filmmakers as well as all manner of artists can build meanings that are attached to a particular place. Some artists take on place to such a degree that they become that place. Landscape painter Georgia O’Keefe’s country is in New Mexico, USA, whilst children’s author Beatrix Potter county is in the Lake’s District in the UK; it is as though these creative people helped the wider world understand those places.

Landscapes can be important influences upon films with a characteristic or genius loci that is memorable within a screening. The snow plains of Dakota in both the film and television series Fargo are cemented in the viewers mind. The scraping of windscreen ice, the stationary marching of boots at the door mat, the dim sunlight, the endless, and anonymous, wooded areas that surround some towns are now recognisable as aspects of that locations place. They have been made understandable without straying far into exaggerations and pronouncements.

Sue Michael.  Willochra Plain,  2016, Pinhole camera, Velvia 35mm slide film

Sue Michael. Willochra Plain, 2016, Pinhole camera, Velvia 35mm slide film

The above image, taken in a travelling car over a long exposure time , would not be normally used by a tourism brochure. Perhaps the tourists’ images can ricochet you further to a new destination. What are they not showing? What is not easily seen from our usual points of view.

Suggested viewing:

A 1981 documentary, Vernn Florida, Produced/ directed by Errol Morris.