Ending the year with galleries of my travel photos from the 1980s is timely, as this year my sidebar images have featured paintings that have held meaning for me throughout my life, many of which I first saw on those trips. There are others that would have qualified, but I couldn’t always find high-resolution images to get the best results for the sidebar excerpts. Still, I managed to find most of the main candidates.
Here’s a gallery of the relevant paintings, along with some notes about when and where I first saw them.
The late 1980s were my undergraduate years at the University of Tasmania, so apart from some short trips in 1988 and 1989 to the mainland and to Fiji, I spent them close to home. As home in those days was the Huon Valley, my main photographic opportunities involved rural domesticity and Tasmania’s southern forests, parts of which I had been visiting all my life.
In late January 1986 my family drove from the south of France into northern Italy, continuing our grand tour of Western Europe. After skirting Genoa we drove south to Pisa, stopping to take a unique, never-to-be-repeated photo of the leaning tower, and then carried on to Florence, where I fell in love with Botticelli and Michelangelo at the Uffizi, and learned from a newspaper stand that the space shuttle Challenger had just exploded on take-off.
At the end of our month in Britain in 1985–86, my family and I boarded a ferry from Plymouth to Santander and drove off it into the wintry sunshine of Spain, for two weeks of exploring my first non-English-speaking European country. Heading south to Burgos, we followed a route from there to Cuellar, Coca, Turegano, Segovia, San Ildefonso, Madrid, Toledo, Belmonte, Cuenca, Teruel, Tarragona, Barcelona and Cadaques. I was bowled over by the country’s enormous, sumptuous cathedrals, and by the many immaculate castles dotting its barren landscape. I fell in love with El Greco in Toledo, Velázquez and Goya in Madrid, and Gaudí and Miró in Barcelona, and took numerous photos of castles, Roman ruins, dusty towns and dazzling architecture. The best are on show in part two of the Grand Tour: Spain and the South of France 1986.
Five years ago I bought a scanner capable of scanning 35mm negatives, and started working through my oldest rolls of film. It takes a while, and once I paused I didn’t come back to them for years, as we had started travelling again and my digital photos were mounting up. Recently I went back to them, though, and kept working my way through the 1980s, beginning with my first trip to Europe with my family in the winter of 1985–86, after our time in Japan.
This photo from New Norfolk on our way out to the West Coast in July didn’t fit in the relevant gallery, but I wanted to post it somewhere, as like the West Coast itself it’s a madeleine for my childhood. It’s a Ford Falcon, or “chook tin” as my mates called ’em (they’re fowl-cans, geddit?), from 1972 or thereabouts. Whadda bewdy.
Mouseover that beast and you’ll see another that I photographed at Forcett in 2005. This one isn’t a Ford, or a Holden that I can tell—it looks like a 1960 Chevrolet, but might be something else from that year or a year either side. Which means it wasn’t as old when I photographed it as that Falcon in New Norfolk was in July. My mate had a Holden EH ute that seemed ancient when he bought it in the mid-1980s but was only half the age of either of these at the time. Now they’re disappearing fast, with a few hanging on in places like rural Tasmania. EJs to ashes, doomed to rust.
Now I’m missing my 1976 Toyota Corona Mark II.
Earlier in the year I made a series of new galleries of the Tasman peninsula for Detail, catching up on a four-year backlog and five trips out there to see my folks. A year after my last visit, I was out there again in July and August with the kids, and this time took them to the most significant tourist attraction on the peninsula, indeed in the entire state: the convict settlement of Port Arthur.
Camping trips were a regular feature of my childhood, our family bundling into the Landy to drive all day to a distant site by some deserted Tasmanian beach. My first memories are of camping, and my first photographs feature camping trips to Tasmania’s northeast and far south. But the place I associate most with those endless summers is the West Coast.
A Glaswegian Twitter-user has posted an excellent thread reviewing every national parliament or congress building in the world, the kind of thing Twitter was made for. He courted controversy early on by bagging the Australian federal parliament, which I loved (as well as the old one) when I lived in Canberra in the 1990s. Its 1980s interiors remind me of my youth, and feature some impressive tapestries, and the flagpole towering over the hill makes a great visual shorthand for Australian cartoonists. The building’s confident modernism was a good match for the Australia of the late 1980s and early 1990s—the one that all went to pot in 1996 (cf. UK architecture of the late-1990s and early-2000s). I was dismayed when they fenced off the grass running over the top of the building, as it was so fundamental to the concept and the experience of the place. I haven’t seen it since that was done, and am not looking forward to seeing the fence in person.
Whenever I travel home to Australia, high on my list is to have at least one good ol’ Aussie meat pie on my trip, and preferably the kind I grew up with: a National Pie from Tasmania. Although they’re now expanding interstate, for most of my life National Pies have been stubbornly parochial, and none of the pies I’ve eaten on the mainland have been quite the same, although some have come close. Too often nowadays, a meat pie in Oz is a fancy-pants café-bakery creation with too many ingredients and meat that’s too chunky: a steak pie, in other words. The prices reflect their fancy-pantsness: one cafe on my last visit wanted ten bucks a pop for their homemade pies. That’s fine, I suppose, if they’ve made an effort to make a quality item, but it ain’t the real thing.
On our trip back to Australia to visit family in July we stopped for a day in Singapore, a city I’ve visited five or six times over the years, first when my brother lived there in the 1990s, and later when my brother-in-law lived there in the 2000s. Add in some additional stops at Changi Airport for a quick curry or bowl of noodles between long-haul flights, and I must have set foot on the island eight or nine times.
While Brexit wreaks havoc on Parliament, its opponents in Parliament Square are drawing inspiration from protesters on the other side of the world, as Hongkongers take to the streets to resist the erosion of their rights by the city’s Beijing-supported administration. Their example drew me back to my photos of a couple of days we spent in Hong Kong on our way to Australia in June 2015, which has yielded another gallery for Detail (and also provided a couple more panoramas).
I had an email from a visitor to the site last week, complimenting my Scottish Sand photos of North Berwick (thanks!) and wondering if I’d ever taken any of Rosslyn Chapel. I saw the chapel a few times between 2005 and 2011, but haven’t been back since, and hadn’t done much with my photos of it. Still, it was a good prompt to go back over them, the first of which were taken on a 2-megapixel Canon IXUS and the rest on a 5-megapixel Lumix. Between them I had decent coverage of the interior and exterior of the chapel, including its roof, which at the time was accessible using the scaffolding in place during its repair. I haven’t got any exterior photos without that scaffolding, so I’ll have to go back to get some, but in the meantime here’s a collection of the best of them.
At the beginning or end of half of the sets of travel photos collected in Detail are a handful of photos from the air, either of countries I’ve visited or places I’ve flown over. Window Seat gathers together over thirty years’ worth, taken first on 35mm film and then on a succession of digital cameras, and in one case on a phone. I haven’t recorded every flight, and some of my most memorable views from the air, like the snaking Thames after dark or the islands of the Pacific, are missing, but there’s enough here to evoke a lifetime’s travel.
Looking back at these now leaves me with some feelings of environmental guilt, and one day when air travel is again out of reach I’ll no doubt look back with nostalgia... but in the meantime, come fly with me.
We lived in Edinburgh for nine years without a car, but when our son came along the merits of having one again became hard to resist, so in June 2010 we bought a second-hand 2002 Ford Focus.
One of the most significant gaps in Detail has been a series of trips I made at the beginning of the decade to Switzerland, mainly to Geneva but also to Zurich, St Gallen, and other towns around Lake Geneva. I had so many photos of the place building up so quickly, and so many thoughts about them, that I could never quite get them together.
I’ve finally dealt with the photos, at least, if not all of the thoughts. The result is a series of new galleries, only six to nine years late.
Two months ago I gathered a handful of links to mark the massacre in Christchurch, but couldn’t collect my thoughts sufficiently to post them here. The city has been one of my favourite places ever since J. and I lived there for a few months in 1997, and as often happens with awful events in places I love, I found it hard to disentangle the events from my memories of the place.
Now that the site is back up and running, and I’ve finally recovered (pretty much) from a fortnight-long case of the flu, I at last have a chance to post a project from weeks ago—although the photos go back much further. These are some galleries for Detail from my trips to Tasmania over the past decade, covering places other than the Tasman Peninsula. Most are from trips made with my parents during our visits to them, apart from one we made on our own.
Sorting out my 2015 & 2016 photos of Melbourne sent me back to some photos from a decade earlier, which I’d never fully done justice to here—so here’s a small gallery for Detail of one of my favourite cities, which includes half a dozen previously seen in Eastern States.
Here’s another trio of galleries for Detail from my trips to Australia between 2015 and last year, which included various stopovers in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, along with a road-trip in 2015 down the Hume Highway, which I’d done many times before but not for a long while. The galleries cover some of the same ground as Eastern States from a decade earlier, with some additional side trips.
Over the past few years I’ve had a backlog of potential galleries mounting up for Detail, partly because these few years have involved multiple trips to the same places, meaning that just as I’ve thought about dealing with one trip’s photos I’ve had new ones from another. Nowhere has this been more true than with pictures of the Tasman Peninsula, where my parents have lived since 2003. My earlier visits were recorded in Tasman, Tasman II and Tasman III, with photos taken on December trips there in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Then followed a gap of five years, after our second baby arrived, our mortgage went up to pay for an attic conversion, and the pound languished against the Aussie dollar: trips home became more difficult, and we had to rely on family members coming to us instead.
In July 2015 we finally managed another three weeks back in Australia, with half of those spent in Tasmania, where I had a chance to photograph some landscapes in winter rather than summer. On the peninsula, the weather was still largely sunny and warm (relative to a Scottish winter, anyway, or even an Edinburgh summer), only with shorter days. The kids even went for a splash about in the sea once or twice. We visited some places I’d never seen before, like the convict site at Point Puer and the tranquil Safety Cove, and walked to Maingon Blowhole and admired the perilous view (it’s literally a hole in the ground right through to the sea, with no fence). We saw Remarkable Cave again, which is, and the remarkable sight of three echidnas strolling across the road up to Hobart. They’re all captured in Tasman IV: