This was one of the last roadtrips because the view cameras were soon put away in a cupboard so that I could concentrate on researching, reading, writing and finishing the PhD in philosophy. The photography went on the backburner whilst I was writing the PhD, and I only continued with photography in the form of personal snapshots in black and white using a Leica. I have yet to go through those negatives to see what is there.
Sadly, I seemed to have displaced the large format negatives of the silos at Wallaroo — both the 5×7 and most of the 8×10 ones. A box of old negatives is missing, presumably misplaced. As they have not been scanned I am going to have to make a systematic search to find them.
I had once hoped to work as an academic and continue with my photography during the academic holidays, but by the mid-1990s I was unsure of what my life would be after finishing the PhD. Though I taught sections of two courses on aesthetics all hopes of becoming an academic had gone with the neo-liberal corporatisation of the universities in the 1990s and the subsequent ongoing squeeze on, and downsizing of, the humanities.
The value of education was now defined in terms of the creation of profit. Capitalist realism had successfully installed a ‘business ontology’ in which it is simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business. This resulted in the decline of the public good of education and the burial of the nineteenth-century conception of a liberal education that sought to cultivate a society of individuals equipped with faculties for making moral choices and living meaningful lives. The freedom of an individual had been transformed into an individual’s freedom of choice, in a free market of economic opportunity. Students were configured as consumers and as the arts and humanities lost funding as they were not seen as a national priority.
I had no intention of trying to make a living as a commercial photographer. Nor did I have any sense of working on new projects as an art photographer, even though I was concerned about the poor state of the River Murray. Its environmental degradation was primarily due to a lack of environmental flows caused by too much water in the Murray-Darling Basin being allocated to irrigated agriculture.
After I’d finished the PhD in 1997-8 I ending up working for the state Democrats in the South Australian parliament. I distinctly remember watching the privatisation and sale of ETSA by the Olsen Liberal Government. This legislation, which passed through Parliament around 1998-9 after two Labor MPs in the Legislative Council switched sides, was a significant moment in SA’s political culture.