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Landscape of Virtue:The Life and Work of Photographer Wesley Stacey – Ziv Cohen 2003




'The first premise of all human history is of course the existence of living human individuals'  - Karl Marx, The German Ideology

The power of photography to convey aspects of the world through interpretative representation is a topic much discussed; additionally, well recognised is the role of landscape photography in the moulding of our perception of the land and the consequent shaping of the land itself.

A topic less frequently addressed in the academic theories of landscape architecture is that of the person behind the camera, and the intricate composition of reason, passion, events and conditions that made him/her click.

With the aim to distinguish and distil these ephemeral qualities of the picture, this thesis will embark on a biographical journey along with the socio-political, philosophical and environmental observations it might offer. Terry (1979) in this regard is saying:

We do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We sat out from real, active men and on the basis of their real life process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this process (Terry, 1979, p. 4)

The life and photographic work of Wesley Stacey is seen in this thesis as a reflection of the powers that are acting upon us and our world.

Of all the people that are ceaselessly acting in the cumulative human experience, some are singled out by their merits or flaws, fortune or strife, serving as markers, beacons and milestones for the rest of us to measure against, and evaluate our place and significance in the overall existence of life.

While the particular relevance and importance of each case might be independently evaluated, it can be generally agreed that the achievements of such persons presents certain values and relevancies that are shared by, and impacted on, society at large.

Whether strictly a professional achievement, an outpour of personal identity, or a combination in varying degrees of both, the characteristic qualities of an individual creator are inherently linked to the motivation, methods and resulting outcomes that henceforth are considered by us as collectively important and valuable.

The manifestation of such recognised public values might be expressed through fame, publicity and the awarding of credits and prizes. On the other hand, achievements may be hidden, unknown to the wider public while acting behind the scenes. Each different manifestation, fame or obscurity, can again have further consequences for the motivation and form of future work.

Wesley Stacey is a photographic artist of distinction whose work since the early 1960s has been concerned with the Australian culture and its relationship to place' (Broinowski, 1994, p. 1).

Photographs signed by Stacey, and Wesley Stacey the man, are recognised by Australian art professionals and in social circles as reflections of potent personal, cultural and political values, an esteem evident in the many acquisitions, expositions and commentaries on his work over the years.

While Stacey's photographic work has been influential in its field of contemporary Australian culture, the persona and lifestyle of Stacey, that similarly affected many people far and wide in different situations and circumstances, is yet to be discovered and its social currency made available to us.

The life events and the profession of Stacey, including relevant biographical anecdotes together with significant artistic achievements, are offered here as a manifestation of the phenomena of personal conduct in the service of social progress, an interplay of the fundamental forces generating human civilisation.

Landscape architecture is closely linked with the photography of landscape as it is facilitating the profession's understandings of both its place in history and both the evaluation of its own past outputs.

Likewise, photography has enabled the documentation of the present for both practical and sentimental purposes and has allowed visual representation of its vision for its desirable future.

When asked of his reflections or opinions of the discipline of landscape architecture, Stacey simply replied that he has none; going then further to scrutinise the meaning of landscape architecture.

In the process he highlighted the discipline's ambiguous position among the other professions of the built and natural environments.

As importantly, this extended to shedding light on the view held by society at large. It is hoped here that by wedding the topic of this thesis to the academic theoretical framework of landscape architecture a better relationship between the two will prevail.



The writing of this thesis started with dread, yet soon became a great pleasure that has ended with a sense of accomplishment and an inspiration for similar future endeavours. It is often said that there is no such a thing as a one-man career, and indeed without the following people I could not have completed this journey.

Thanks to Wesley Stacey for the inspiration to start with, and his contributions along the way, to Murray and Caroline Cox for opening their home and archives to me, and illuminating the topic with a unique personal light. Gavin Wilson has supervised the writings, Flora and Tali Gill helped in editing and proofreading and Youakim Moubarak has diligently made my English legible and supported me in many ways: thank you my friends. My parents watched over this from afar however their presence was always felt.

This thesis is also my final assignment in the four-year voyage of Landscape Architecture bachelor degree and I wish to express my gratitude to the staff of the Faculty of the Built Environment in UNSW.

I dedicate this thesis to my grandmother Daisy whose bounty of spirit and generosity made it possible.



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