SPOOR comprises groups of colour photographs made by Roger Palmer while following rail routes between towns and settlements of South Africa. The photographs were accumulated between 2014 and 2018 as Palmer drove along mostly minor roads through the country’s nine provinces.
A ‘spoor’ is the track or scent of an animal or person. In Afrikaans it also refers to rail tracks (South Africa’s rail network, used to be called Spoornet). The title of the book suggests acts of following and shadowing determined by these mostly defunct rail routes, many of which are now used as footpaths between township and town.
Over the course of the project Palmer stopped at around 550 places to make pictures. From these 83 images are presented in ten series. Each series is introduced by a double page of station place-names arranged according to their locations on an otherwise absent national map. Isolated in darkness, these seemingly random configurations of places constitute Palmer’s selection of picture series, the sites of which may be close to each other or separated by vast distances.
Some of the place-names are those of regional centres including several that have been re-named in the post-apartheid era. Others refer only to the faded railway signage that preserves their fragile status as places. SPOOR concludes with a ‘map’ showing the distribution of all photographic locations that contributed to the project.
SPOOR is a continuation of Palmer’s work, focusing primarily on photography and other media to address concepts of place and placelessness, location and dislocation, migration and settlement.