This photo is made from an ecological perspective on the landscapes that have been produced by the economic development of settler capitalism. Today there is only scattered remnant vegetation left from the clearance for agricultural production in the Fleurieu Peninsula. It's not a pretty picture.
The photo of an intimate landscape --dead roadside vegetation-- is the opposite of a nostalgic picture of a cosy, rural life to a harmonious settlement that has its roots in the yeoman tradition in the form of soldier settlements. The state government, as a promoter of economic development, in the early 20th century was also the architect of a desired cultural landscape and social class that emphasised the virtues of small-scale family owned and operated yeoman farms.
The ‘ pioneer legend’---which saw white settlement as a battle to win the land, in which humans were evenly pitted against nature---is now a form of myth making, given the emergence of agri-businesses and the family farm becoming all but obsolete. The pioneer idea, in pitting settlers against the land was not only fruitless, in leading to the ruin of the settlers, but self-defeating in ultimately ruining the land itself.
The photo is a looking back on Australia's history of agricultural development. It indicates that there is a violence in the colonial settlement premised onto invasion and ruination of other people's country. Parched landscapes, degraded wetlands, salt encrusted soil are the indicators of the environmental degradation that has resulted from this form of Australian modernity.
'Intimate landscapes' refers to a familiar corner of a landscape, and it is associated with a sensual experience of belonging within a known place. In this case it is an agricultural landscape of the primary producer at Waitpinga in the Fleurieu Peninsula that I experience when on a daily walks with the standard poodles along a country road.
I find the degradation of these landscapes depressing. Its a history of decline and decay. In the early 20th century farming used to be the largest single sector of the economy, comprising over a quarter of the country’s output, and contributing 80 per cent of its exports. Drought, low commodity prices, rising debt and environmental stress have driven many rural communities close to the point of extinction.
This is a landscape shaped by rural depopulation, neo-liberale economic reform, rural decline, and environmental crisis.