Coastal Collection engages with ideas about landscape, botany and 19th-century photography. The installation of black-and-white photographs and a wallpaper frieze explore the notion of ‘the new wild’ by examining coastal areas in and around Melbourne where introduced plant species grow wild.
What is contemporary wilderness? Can plants considered weeds, such as fireweed and African boxthorn, sustain biodiversity incoastal dunes and creeks within our city and coastal towns? Indigenous species found in the dunes on Brighton’s Dendy Street Beach and on the cliff face at Kilcunda in the Bass Coast, coexist with many invasive but benign species. In these environments, many introduced plants prevent erosion and provide habitat for birds, reptiles, insects and other animals.
Utilising the tradition of expedition and collection armed with a camera and secateurs, Wells photographed the coastal environments and collected samples of introduced species, which she used to create a set of lumen prints. These works reference the cyanotype prints of plant specimens created by 19th-century British artist Anna Atkins. This form of camera-less photography is realised by using sunlight to expose the plants onto photosensitive material and then fixing the images in a darkroom. In this installation the lumens prints of Coprosma repens (mirror bush) collected from Kilcunda in the Bass Coast, have been reproduced as a frieze. The black-and-white photographs capture introduced species such as African boxthorn, soursob, agapanthus, hare’s tail, mirror bush and fireweed.
Coastal Collection combines analogue and digital photographic processes in order to emphasise the botanical histories of the sites. Wells invites us to look more closely at these environments, particularly those we would normally overlook.
Coastal Collection was exhibited at Bargoonga Nganjin, City of Yarra, 5 May – 29 June 2018