A few weeks back we were lucky enough to score a night at the Rockhamtpon Boutique Hotel. Actually, we’d been given this months earlier, by the talented »Madelyn from Flickr, who won it due to her fantastic photography. Fortunately for us, she couldn’t use it, I took the sandiest sand photos in a sand photo competition (held at the very sandy Sandy Point) the next month, and voila… months later we’d actually organised babysitters.
My Dad was in business for as long as I can remember. He had two premises. The first was in the main street of Rockhampton, down in what was the original industrial zone, just at the end of the sandstone heritage buildings. After that flooded, he moved a few blocks to higher ground. I can assure you, cleaning river mud out of a flooded building is not pleasant. It is hard to shift. Whenever I see flood damaged houses or premises on TV News, I have some idea what it’s like.
The second premises were very near the Hotel we stayed in.
Around this area the buildings are mainly old corrugated iron sheds, built on huge wooden frames. While they are progressively being rebuilt, and most have modern facades, there are many very old buildings, and they have their own sort of beauty. You can really only see it from inside, or from the back alleys.
Maybe it’s very hard to see at all. Maybe it is beautiful to me because so much of this scene is bound up with my own family history, and with my memories of my father. It’s hard to say.
I think there’s another reason I find something appealing about these scenes. Like most regional centres on the eastern seaboard, Rockhampton was once a port city. Smaller, but in some ways more urban and important than it is now. Many of these old sheds date from those days, but they are plain, functional, non-architectural, unappreciated. But they’ve been host to so much enterprise and part of so many lives.
These three photos were taken on black and white Chinese film, and developed in Rodinal. The fixer I used was too old. The effects of this are clearest on the first roll. Also, I was not careful enough, and let the Paterson tank sit too long without agitation – you can see the dark marks from undisturbed bubbles.
I wonder if the “look” of Holga or Lomo shots appeals to me because it evokes the past, and somehow amplifies the kernel of melancholy that is necessarily present in every photo, every window into a past we can’t reach. Consciously, I was simply looking for shots that would suit the Holga aesthetic. I’m not really one for psychoanalysis, but I do think that there are usually elements of accident in the most carefully planned art, and elements of purpose in the most ad hoc. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something in choosing these shots, and developing them this way. Maybe I’m trying to get a good look at something I know I can’t see.
I read the stats for this blog. I know several people a day come here looking for texture images or googling the word “nostalgia”. So hi there! Tell me what you think. Is there beauty in these grungy alleyways? Or is it just in the way they’ve been framed by the erratic optics and chemistry of my methods? Or is it all in my imagination, and the imperfection of my memories?
For being kind enough to answer these questions by leaving a response below, I’ll you with one more Rockhampton Holga photo.