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Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

2019 WORLDWIDE PINHOLE DAY 28 April – Our images

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WPD-logo

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Round the [w]hole world on Sunday the 28th of April 2019 pinholers were out having fun – Making their images for the 2019 WPD. Far away from the darkroom (again) we’ve once again fitted a pin-prick in a piece of aluminium fitted to a body cap of our Olympus Pen camera and we went on a road trip in Tasmania from the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to the mountains and back again.

This is the 14th year we have supported the WPD project!

 

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ABOUT VICKY’S PINHOLE IMAGE:

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Capturing time and light in the mountains of Tasmania..

The photo was taken by digital capture with hand-made hole on an Olympus Pen using manual setting.

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My friends take a photo with their iPhones

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ABOUT DOUG’S PINHOLE IMAGE:

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Late this afternoon we went walking in the Autumn light down past the bare trunks and branches of deciduous trees – my friends stopped to photograph with their iPhones… Callie walked on…

 

Both pinhole photographs were taken on an Olympus Pen camera

Olympus Pen with hand pierced aluminum foil hole, Aperture exposure mode, ISO 1600.

Camera with pricked pinhole in alfoil, Aperture exposure mode, ISO 800.

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Other images we made on the day…

 

Visit the WPD Site for details of other submissions:  http://pinholeday.org/

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Our Past WPD images:

2018 Doug+Vicky https://wotwedid.com/2018/04/29/2018-worldwide-pinhole-day-29-april-our-images/

2016 Doug: http://www.pinholeday.org/index.php?id=1235

2016 Vicky: http://www.pinholeday.org/index.php?id=1540

2015  https://wotwedid.com/2015/05/04/april-26-worldwide-pinhole-day-our-contributions-for-2015/

2014  Vicky’s http://pinholeday.org/gallery/2014/index.php?id=1810&City=Toowoomba

2014  Doug’s http://pinholeday.org/gallery/2014/index.php?id=1811&City=Toowoomba

2013   https://wotwedid.com/2013/04/29/world-pinhole-photography-day-our-contribution/

2012   http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2012/index.php?id=1937&searchStr=spowart

2011    http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2011/index.php?id=924

HERE IS THE LINK to the 2011 pinhole video   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk4vnbzTqOU

2010   http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2010/index.php?id=2464&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2006  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2006/index.php?id=1636&Country=Australia&searchStr=cooper

2004 Vicky  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2004/index.php?id=1553&Country=Australia&searchStr=cooper

2004 Doug  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2004/index.php?id=1552&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2003  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2003/index.php?id=615&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2002  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2002/index.php?id=826&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

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 ©2019 Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper
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Our photographs and words are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/..
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HEAD-ON Exhibition in SYDNEY to include Victoria COOPER + Ruby SPOWART

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Headon Logo

I’m excited to announce that the two women in my life VICTORIA Cooper and my mother RUBY Spowart have both been selected as one of the LOUD and LUMINOUS curated 100 AUSTRALIAN WOMEN PHOTOGRAPHERS exhibition to be shown at the 2019 HEAD-ON PHOTO FESTIVAL. It is an amazing and powerful exhibition of contemporary photography brought together by the dynamic duo Hilary Wardhaugh and Melissa Anderson.

 

Here’s the story…

 

ABOUT LOUD & LUMINOUS – from the web page

The Loud and Luminous mission is to recognise and celebrate the contribution of contemporary women in the photographic arts in Australia. We believe this project is unique and important in identifying the extensive cultural contribution women photo-based artists and photographers have made in this country. This project is designed to empower the girls and women of today and tomorrow to chase in their dreams. This is a timely project and one that hopes will help educate and inspire many women of all ages.

 

Vicky’s photograph is based on an important Tasmanian issue…

Listening …

 

VICKY’s ARTIST’S STATEMENT

My ancestors are European…. but I am removed by generations from these origins and have always sought to understand my place in this altered land. Over recent years I have spent time in Tasmania. I have come to know of Aboriginal stories that tell of women that lived and survived through the colonial invasion of their land and the resulting massive change to their lives and the future of their culture. I found Putalina, in Palawa kani, a place for reflection on the story telling that has highlighted the strength and power of past Aboriginal women including Truganini and Fanny Cochrane Smith.

 

Ruby’s work related to where she now lives and a reflection on her mother’s amateur painting…

My mother painted floral arrangements

 

RUBY’s ARTISTS STATEMENT:

My mother painted floral arrangements.

Before getting married and having children on a farm in central Victoria in the early 1900s my mother painted in oils. I never saw her paint – having children and the hard life on the farm meant that there was no time for art. Her paintings, mainly of floral subjects, however lived on and now are cherished by the family generations that followed.

If there is an art gene then my mother passed it to me. In my life I have practiced many art mediums from enamelling to china painting and ceramics as well as photography. Despite having three children and working with my husband in a family business I persisted with my art making. It has rewarded me and enriched my life.

Now in my 90s I photograph with my iPhone and these flower photographs come from the gardens that my neighbours and I nurture. In this work I feel that I am making the flower ‘paintings’ that my mother was never able to…

 

Venue / Date / Times

 

 

From the Headon website

 

 

 

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1788–January 25th, the next day, and now

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In 2010 we wanted to make an artwork to comment and reflect on Australia Day and some of our feelings about the origins of the date – the implications of that event and the repercussions that we live with and navigate today. Through a scorchingly hot day in Toowoomba we worked with cyanotype solutions and selected objects – some from our home and others sourced from the food scraps from a local seafood smorgasbord restaurant on the day.

The work that we did that day emerged as the collaborative artists’ book, a broadsheet we titled, Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788.

 

A statement about the artwork

Across Australia over the January 26th long weekend, people prepare, cook and consume food to mark this day in history.

For us, this work is our response to, and in recognition of, the ‘turning of the page’ in Australian history that this date represents. One day, January 25th 1788, Aboriginal people feasted on a diverse banquet of bush tucker as they had for thousands of years. The next day, the country was transformed by a new paradigm represented in this work by the table setting of the First Fleet.

Australia Day, for us, is an important time to acknowledge the First Peoples’ perspective and their knowing of land, culture and history and how it should be recognised as underpinning the diversity and identity of contemporary Australia. We, as descendants of European people, are seeking to understand and know more about our place within the longer history of this land.

The work is to be viewed/read in a display context with a spotlight directed onto the work.

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View 1: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The 25th of January side of the broadsheet is viewed and contemplated.

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View 2: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The broadsheet is then turned over to view the 26th of January side.

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View 3: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

Finally the broadsheet is held up to the light – the complex interrelationship between the two visual references to be seen and considered.

 

 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A unique state artists’ book broadsheet

TITLE: Australian Banquet January 25/26, 1788

MEDIA: Double-sided cyanotype image in rice paper

DIMENSIONS: 37.6 x 77cm

PLACE & DATE MADE: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, 2010

EDITION: 7 variations

 

EXHIBITIONS & AWARDS:

2014 EXHIBITED: Alternative Imaging – Curated by Dawne Fahey at Two Doors Gallery, The Rocks, Sydney

2011 SHORTLISTED: Southern Cross University Artists’ Book Award, Lismore. Judge: Ross Woodrow

2011 EXHIBITED: BLUE – Arts Council Toowoomba members exhibition, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

2010 FINALIST: Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award,

………………………Gold Coast City Gallery. Judge: Judy Annear

COLLECTIONS: Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland

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2018 FIELD STUDIES: CAMERA OBSCURA FERRY PORTHOLE – Bass Straight waves over the Spirit of Tasmania

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Our 2018 Field Studies submission of 100 artworks

 

As an important end of year ritual, we have once again prepared our submission to the ‘FIELD STUDIES INTERNATIONAL’ collaborative mail art project organised by David Dellafiora. Artists from around the world contribute to this project by mailing to David 100 artworks of any process and printed media made to A5 size. He then works with a team to collate all the submissions and assemble 100 copies of the collaborative book. After each participant receives one of these books, a number are then sold to private and institutional collectors to fund the project. We have contributed to the Field Studies for the last 10 years. Some links to the previous submissions are provided at the end of this post.

 

Here’s the story of our 2018 Field Studies report…

 

In 2000, we began a series of site-specific camera obscura projects that is a continuing body of work… This year we made two attempts to construct a cabin camera obscura. The second attempt proved more successful and so in this blog we present this recent work – Through a porthole in 3-5metre seas on the The Spirit of Tasmania.

 

The Spirit of Tasmania

 

On the morning of the 3rd of November we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania and checked in to our cabin for the nine-hour day crossing. We had booked months earlier and had requested a porthole cabin with the idea of making a camera obscura.

Earlier in 2018 we had tried unsuccessfully to make camera obscura images on an overnight crossing figuring that by the time we boarded the ship we would have a brief period of sunlight – alas, that would not be the case it was dark by the time we had boarded and checked into our cabin. This second time we worked it differently with a day crossing and a porthole cabin… we then prepared for a full day of camera obscura work.

You can imagine our excitement to find that our cabin was in the middle at the front of the boat with a view over the flagpole on the prow of the ferry to the sea beyond. So we set to work with a mini camera obscura tool kit had been prepared for the preparation of the darkroom:

  • A quantity of heavy-duty black garbage bags
  • Gaffa tape
  • Scissors

 

A camera obscura tool kit

 

Vicky documented Doug as he negotiated the space beyond the bunks to tape the black bags over the window. Progressively the room got darker and glimpses of the features outside our little cabin imaged themselves on the walls of the cabin. One problem was the darkening down of the central image area caused by depth of the room and a mirror on the reverse of the door. We decided that to create an observable image we needed re-purposed two white doona covers as a screen by taping them to the ceiling and walls with the gaffa tape. To recreate the theatrical space of the cabin camera obscura, we combined a series of images of the cabin walls and the screen at different stages of the journey. We also found our humble Olympus Pen camera set at ISO25,000 the best option as it fitted the small space and enabled hand-held exposures.

 

 

The Spirit of Tasmania left Devonport port and headed out into Bass Straight. For us this was a challenging crossing as there were strong westerly winds and huge 3-5 metre waves for most of the day. It wasn’t long before we began to experience the ‘bang’ and ‘splash’ of waves over our porthole… we were on one of the upper decks – deck 8!!! Kwells (anti-seasickness pills) were taken and to take our minds off the thump and roll we got active documenting the CO crossing.

Two composite images were constructed from our work that day that we entitled Through a porthole in 3-5 metre seas on the The Spirit of Tasmania. The first is a panorama that shows Vicky on her bunk looking at the projected camera obscura image. On the right-hand side the shadow of the camera held aloft is imaged. The final panorama is made of 4 images.

 

Vicky observing the panorama camera obscura image

 

The second image is a triptych of the projected image on the screen showing a series of three photographs made by Vicky as the boat rocked with the centre image documenting a whiteout as a wave crashes on the window.

 

Camera obscura: a 3-5 metre wave crashes against our porthole (inverted)

Camera obscura: a 3-5 metre wave crashes against our porthole

 

We left the camera obscura setup until we docked. Midway across Bass Straight the images described above we assembled and optimised as the ‘bang’ and ‘whoosh’ of the waves on the boat continued incessantly. At one stage we ventured out to see how those brave souls in the public areas of the ferry were managing… they all looked pretty green–some not well at all, and many finding any horizontal space they could to find some comfort.

When the Spirit docked we dismantled the CO and disembarked, glad to be on terra firma again.

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To see a post about the FIELD STUDIES INTERNATIONAL and other of our Field Studies submissions

About David Dellafiora and  Field Studies International

https://wotwedid.com/2013/01/05/field-study-international-our-contribution/

 

Our 2016 Field Studies International submission

https://wotwedid.com/2017/01/17/field-studies-international-2016-our-contribution/

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THE HIDDEN ART OF DRAWING – REVEALED: JADA 2018

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Artists fill notebooks with drawings using a range of mark-making methods from burnt sticks (charcoal), lead and coloured pencils to ink pens and colour washes. These can be renderings that replicate the subject in ways that a camera might. They can be of details and juxtapositions of elements. Or they can be quick-made glimpses full of emotion and movement that come not so much from the subject itself but rather from the artist’s response to the inspiration created by what they witness.

Later in the artmaking process the artist retrieves these references and in the studio space with the grander media of canvas, metal or expanses of paper the drawing’s trace is carefully made and through the application of pigments applied by brush and palette knife or engraved, etched, inked and pressed. Here a ‘real’ artwork is made. Yet, underneath the final artwork the reference drawing resides – hidden.

 

The secret hidden ‘art’ of the artist’s drawing has for 30 years been the focus of the biennial Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA) at the Grafton Regional Gallery (GRG). In this award the drawing is revered not as an aide-mémoire for the artist’s later work but rather as the product of a deliberate creative and expressive artmaking activity.

 

The gallery has as it’s rationale for JADA and the GRG Drawing Collection the following statements:

The award seeks to encourage and promote innovation and excellence and plays a vital role in fostering Australian drawing practice.

The … collection exemplifies the developments and changing parameters of contemporary drawing since 1988. The collection explores the way that drawing resonates as a contemporary medium, demonstrating the relevance and strength of drawing. Works in the collection offer a varied and extensive overview of drawing ranging from highly resolved articulate works to spontaneous expressive works that are mostly retained on the conventional support of paper.

… the collection has attractively developed through the tastes, opinions and approaches of the various judges into a collection that is compelling, thought provoking, innovative, exuberant, and diverse.

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

For those interested in artists in their practice of drawing a visit to the GRG will reveal all. In 2018 fifty-five artworks were selected from 498 entries by a pre-selection panel of suitably qualified persons. The selection of the major JADA award as well as acquisitions for the gallery’s drawing collection were adjudicated by Anne Ryan, Curator of Drawing, Prints and Watercolours from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 

What is surprising in the JADA selection is the way in which the techniques and media of drawing the can lead to such a diverse and stimulating variety of artworks. There are works that:

  • Emulate photographs in their fine detail and tonal rendition
  • Are exquisite in the draughtsmanship expressed
  • Show the artist’s use of the drawing to ‘find the edge’ and give shape and form to the subject
  • The emergent use of computer software, digital output, and digital media animation screen presented time-based artworks
  • Express the textural nature of the drawing media on the receiving surface
  • The passing of time in a stilled framed work
  • Explore caricatures
  • Play with simple gestural lines and equally simple ideas

The winner of the $30k 2018 JADA award was Todd Fuller, a Sydney based artist with his work titled Ode to Clarence as described in the Gallery’s website as: a hand drawn and painted animation, created during a residency at Grafton Regional Art Gallery.

The work deals with the current issues in Grafton associated with the building of a new bridge connecting the city with the highway. Through a digitally presented narrative relating to the disruption to the community caused by the terraforming, street changes and house demolitions caused by the bridge building. The work is created as a continuous drawing in parts.

 

 

Some may question how this work is classified as a ‘drawing’ as we usually encounter a drawing as a static artwork in a notebook, on paper or in a frame. As such time-based digital media presentations and other such works present a challenge to the traditional paradigm. These digital media ‘drawings’ may be documentation of drawing projects or of performances commenting on the concept of drawing. As we know there is a significant history of animated drawings presented as moving picture films. It should also be acknowledged that documentation by video might also make visible a drawing work in transformation. Though it might be asked how do these works ‘fit’ with the term ‘drawing’? And when does a drawing cease being a ‘drawing’ and become a work in the discipline of animation or digital media?

Interestingly Fuller’s drawing work uses a technique similar to that used by the artist Blu in his famous street graffiti video documentary MUTO. Blu describes his work as:a seven minute animated mural.

Thoughts such as these will no doubt occupy the minds of many visitors to the JADA exhibition as it travels around the eastern seaboard over the next two years. Whatever the outcome for such thoughts ultimately JADA has provided an important biennial review and space for critical commentary and reflection on the discipline and has stimulated this enquiry. The award also reveals and makes visible the work of artists, it shares their stories and ideas through the discipline of drawing – perhaps the oldest of all human creative endeavours.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

With thanks to Dr Cooper for editorial support

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

 

FOOTNOTE:

Other works acquired for the Grafton Regional Gallery Collection with their $10k allocation are:

  • David Fairbairn Portrait of T.J.K No 1, 
  • Kedal Gear Haze, 
  • Nicci Haynes Drawing Dancing (an animation),
  • Noel McKenna Silent Assassin and
  • Claire Primrose Assembled Landscape 3.

 

An illustrated catalogue of the JADA entries can be downloaded here: 2018_JADA_Finalists_Catalogue

Apart from the Gallery exhibition in late 2018 the JADA will tour regional galleries over the next two years to the following venues; Manning Regional Gallery, Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, Griffith Regional Art Gallery, Latrobe Regional Gallery and the Tamworth Regional Gallery.

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Text ©2018 Doug Spowart  Photographs of gallery ©2018 Doug Spowart. Copyright of artworks is retained by the artist
Many artworks have been photographed to show the nature of the framing and matting of the work.

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Slowing time in the temple, the darkroom and in the gallery

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KEIKO GOTO’s Zen in 35mm

Tacit Art Galleries 7 November – 2 December, 2018

 

In the contemporary society all aspects of life are on hyper speed, every human endeavour is intensified and condensed into sound bites, vision-bites, 3D, in-the-moment, hyper-experiential consumeristic bliss. In this space the photographs by Keiko Goto are a complete anathema. Goto’s photographs don’t shout at the viewer, they don’t profess to demand a political viewpoint and they don’t leave us with demands for us to feel concerned or ambivalent for the subjects in the pictures.

 

Tacit Gallery installation: Zen in 35mm

 

Keiko Goto’s photographs are viewed in the context of a white walled gallery on entering the room they appear as small darkly toned windows. When approaching the photographs, perhaps with knowledge of the accompanying artist’s statement and the eloquent catalogue essay by Kerrilee Ninnis, an enveloping quietness descends, and a story is revealed in a sequence of low key black and white photographs.

 

 

Embraced by Soft Spring Light

 

The exhibition is entitled Zen in 35mm and presents a series of vignettes, each a moment in the life of a Japanese monk in the Kichijyoji temple in Tokyo. The view that each photograph shows is from a distanced viewpoint – she is a trusted observer in his space. Her photographs are nearly all quite dark with a spotlight delineating, by chiaroscuro the shape of the monk’s form, a head or a profile, from the dark ground. Other images are of the temple place and the monk’s sparse accoutrements.

Silent Chanting

 

Goto is in tune with with the ways of Zen through her Japanese cultural background and the experience that comes from her attendance at the temple over many years to learn and practice calligraphy.

All photographs are made on film and carefully printed by the author in gelatine silver fibre paper. Some images have been printed using enlarged negatives on platinum-palladium hand-coated paper with Goto’s distinctive calligraphic styled brush strokes. Adding perhaps to the following of traditions in photography is the fact that she uses a Leica IIIb camera from the 1930s.

 

Ouryouki

 

The monk concentrates on his devotion and to the rituals of his observance of Buddhism. Goto observes the scene silently waiting to receive the distilled moment. Later in the darkroom the film is process in strict accordance with a codified ritual. Quiet meditations continue in the stillness of the safelight-illuminated darkroom. The simple rhythm of the rocking tray and the beauty is revealed as the image develops in the tray. In many ways the use of analogue capture and printmaking could have some sympatico – a mutual commonality with the performance and commitment of Zen philosophy.

 

Back in the gallery the presentation reflects Goto’s experience. It is as if the gestural movement of the brush on paper has been transformed into these walls – each image a monochrome fragment becomes a calligraphy pictogram. Time is slowed in viewing these images and in this reflective quietness the photographs reveal the monk’s story through Keiko Goto’s own meditative work – like visualised haiku poems…

 

In the darkness – light

A head bowed, a murmur inside

Photographer’s eye

 

Doug Spowart

December 27, 2018

 

Perfect Garden

Meditation 4

Meditation 3

Meditation 1

Lustrous Robe

 

 

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

December 28, 2018 at 4:31 pm

The man who photographed every house in Australia

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BACK STORY on the FRANK & EUNICE CORLEY HOUSE PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION

in the State Library of Queensland and the exhibition HOME: a suburban obsession

 

Imagery Gallery – with my mother and business partner Ruby Spowart

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From 1980 to 1995 I was co-director, with my mother Ruby, of Imagery (photography) Gallery (1). The gallery operated in 3 locations in South Brisbane two of them being on the corner of Grey and Melbourne Streets. Although our main business activity was a photographic gallery and workshop we were also suppliers for specialised equipment for photographers – one of them was the famous Leica 35mm camera. As a Leica user myself since the early 1970s my special knowledge of this equipment was not so much from the point of view of a salesperson but rather as a user of the full range of Leica cameras, projectors, enlargers, binoculars and accessories in my documentary and art photography practice.

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In the late 1980s or early 1990s an elderly man visited the gallery and exhibited an interest in Leicas. He mentioned that has had been a professional photographer and that he used the older screw mount Leica gear. Initially I saw him as a potential purchaser, though in time and after many visits I realised that this was not to be the case. His name was Frank Corley and I found him to be a storyteller. With each visit came my understanding that he enjoyed the opportunity to talk with someone interested in his life.

Frank lived in Annerley and dined every evening at Sizzlers – he called it “Zizzlers”. He was a dapper man with a hat and very well dressed. His visits to the gallery were easily accomplished by train as the gallery was situated just over the road from the South Brisbane Railway Station.

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Frank’s camera

At one stage in 1994 Frank indicated that he had some Leica equipment he wanted to sell and invited me to his home. I went with my partner Victoria Cooper to his Annerley home. On entering the house one came in contact with the enormity of Frank and his wife’s life as in every room there was ‘stuff’. His partner in his business his wife Eunice had passed away by this time. Everything had a story – a watercolour painting of Central Australia by Ewald Namatjira (if I remember correctly), Frank recounted was purchased by him when he was photographing homes in Alice Springs. He bought the painting from the artist who presented work for sale at the front gate of the caravan park from which Frank was operating his business. We went from room to room looking for the items he wanted to sell which finally amounted to some very out-dated photographic paper, an enlarging easel and an old Leica Focomat enlarger.

We did a tour of the back yard in which were parked several vehicles. One was the now famous Cadillac (though not pink in colour as often described), another was a little like a Bedford delivery van. We went inside and in the back of the vehicle was a compact darkroom, enlargers, trays, and rolls of processed film in special cardboard gridded boxes. It was cramped but functional – later I was to discover that Eunice was the darkroom operator. I had a lot of respect for that lady and her workspace.

In a lean-to shed at the back of the property Frank reached into a large cardboard box and pulled out a handful of black and white prints of houses. He had already told me of his Pan American Home Photographic Company business of photographing houses from the Cadillac (and other vehicles) as he drove down the street steering the car with his knees taking photos. These photographs were subsequently processed and printed and salesmen, sometime Frank himself, would then call back at the houses and sell prints that could be mounted on cards or calendars. The company brand phrase was From Our Home to Your Home.

I looked around and saw maybe 8-10 boxes the size of which would have been 80cmx60cmx60cm and each box was crammed full of prints. I asked how did he end up with so many photographs? His answer was that at the time the sales tax on photographic materials was 27.5% and as he did not have a sales tax exemption number for his business he paid tax when he bought film and photo paper. At the end of each financial year the value of the tax on the unsold photographs could be claimed as a sales tax credit. The volume of work he was doing that was unsold amounted to a reasonable credit but the prints needed to be retained along with other taxation documents for many years. These photographs came from a time 20-25 years earlier and had not been disposed.

 

Some Corley house photographs    Source: State Library of Queensland

I reached into one of the boxes and pulled out a bundle of photos. What I saw were very ‘straight’ photos of houses all with very similar framing, usually recorded almost as plan elevations. The houses look dated to perhaps 20-30 earlier and I sensed that I was holding in my hands a documentary photography history record. I asked Frank what would happen to these photographs when he moved on… his answer was that they’d probably be sent to a silver recovery plant or dumped. Ohhh! I thought. Before leaving Frank that day he posed for a couple of portrait photos with his trusty Leica IIIg.

Frank Corley circa 1994

At this time in my photodocumentary practice I had undertaken re-photography projects where early photographer’s pictures were relocated and re-imaged as a way of showing the passing of time. My own history making photographs and also from building my own collection of photographs from the beginnings of the invention of photography 150 years earlier meant that to me these images were special and needed preserving. I couldn’t let them be lost, not only because they represented Frank’s life work, but also for their historical value.

On leaving Frank’s home I worked through some ideas with Vicky as to what could happen with Frank’s photographs. At the time I was a valuer for the Australian Government’s Taxation Incentives for the Arts a program where the value of donations to cultural institutions could be used as a tax credit for the donor. I had been involved in valuations for the State Library of Queensland so I made contact with some of the people I knew there. I must have sounded convincing, as there was interest in the work from SLQ Field Officer Niles Elvery. I contacted Frank who said that he would be happy to donate the photographs to the Library and in due course I travelled in a Library station wagon driven by Niles back to Frank’s place.

I’m not sure how we fitted the boxes into the station wagon but I remember it being a tight fit. Frank signed a document that Niles had brought with him and we travelled back to the Library. We reckoned that there were around 12,000 photographs.

A few months later I heard via Frank’s solicitor that he had died and that any items that Imagery Gallery was holding of his pending sale needed to be returned. I was somewhat taken by Frank’s passing and as he seemed to be without friends or family around I thought it appropriate that I write an obituary which I published in a journal I edited called PHOTO.Graphy, ISSN 1038-4332 – The Christmas edition, v. 6, 1995. It reads:

FRANK CORLEY: Obituary

Unknown to most of us Frank Corley, a travelling photographer passed away on October 19, 1995. I suppose we all die eventually and our life’s work, the photographs we make are left to the destinies of those who possess them. In a life full of entrepreneurial activities Frank owned and managed a transport business, caravan parks and a lolly shop. A fascination for photography led to the formation of Pan American Studios. Street photography and in particular photographing houses was his big passion.

I call him the man who photographed every house in Australia because if you ever spoke with him about it he made you believe that he did. Frank Corley won’t be missed by many but his legacy ~ his photographs, will live on in private family archives but most significantly through the donation of around 12,000 prints of Queensland homes presented to the John Oxley Library, Brisbane in June this year. This fragment of Frank’s work would have been lost except for a fluke of meeting with me and his generosity.

I just wish there could have been more time to record the experiences that he so happily shared with me.

Doug Spowart   6/11/95

 

The years went by and memory of Frank and his donation were for me a faded memory. In 2015 I was granted a Siganto Foundation Artists’ Book Research Fellowship at the SLQ. One day I met a volunteer called John Wilson at the library and I found out that he had been working for years in trying to unlock the Corley code for the photographs, what town – what street? We spoke about his method of working which was hindered by limited information available in the bundles of prints and scant markings on the prints. John had street directories from Queensland towns which he had identified street names and had himself been out on the road looking to confirm hunches.

Soon after this meeting I met Denis Peel and became aware of the work that the Annerley-Stephens History Group had done in identifying many of Corley’s home photographs from the Fairfield, Annerley, Yeronga, Yeerongpilly, Tennyson and Moorooka areas. As a volunteer group they held meetings, provided teams and individuals with Corley photos who then went out looking to identify houses. A significant Phase One report was generated by the group in 2015. Additional research was subsequently prepared. By June 2016 they reported that they had located over 3000 matching houses. I visited one of their meetings and was impressed by the energy of the volunteers. In 2017 The Annerley-Stephens History Group were awarded the John Oxley Library Community History Award for their continued and highly successful community project. The activities of the group were supported by the State Library through access to the photographs and later aided by the digitisation of the collection that has only recently been completed.

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SLQ Home Website Banner

With the growing interest in the Corley Collection and the recognition of its value as an extensive and unique record of Queensland houses and suburbs the SLQ scheduled the planning and preparation of the exhibition which they have entitled – Home: a suburban obsession. As the facilitator of the donation and my knowledge of Frank and his work I have assisted Chenoa Pettrup and Adam Jefford from the Asia Pacific Design Library wherever possible in the preparations for this show. As an artist/photographer and researcher I appreciate the efforts by the exhibition coordinators to involve appropriately talented and skilled personnel to give this event the opportunity to capture community interest. Special commissions for inclusion in the show include Ian Strange‘s large-scale charcoal rendition of a Queensland home, an  installation by Queensland artist/designer Jennifer Marchant and an immersive Brisbane virtual reality streetscape by [f]FLAT. Assembled in the exhibition space were artists’ books, books, catalogues and photographs from the SLQ collections that highlighted the idea of ‘home’ and included Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Australian photographer John Gollings and his Gold Coast works. Alan Scurr, a Leica camera collector collector from Toowoomba loaned camera items for a display of the camera equipment that Frank used.

 

Entry to the exhibition Home: a suburban obsession

Entry to the exhibition Home: a suburban obsession

 

The Home: a suburban obsession offers many significant opportunities:

(1) It reveals how suburban architecture looked 40 or so years ago,

(2) It provides an opportunity for contemporary Queenslanders to connect with their homes of the era,

(3) The historical nature of the photographs will be a provocative agent for nostalgia and, for some solastaligia,

(4) It enables us to appreciate unusual photographic business activities and the partnership that exists in many small photographic enterprises, and

(5) It celebrates the value of the physical photograph as a time capsule.

 

The Internet may have given us the modern invention the Google Street View but in a way the Corleys were doing it 40 years ago – the evidence is in the nearly 62,000 photographs in the collection. Though it is interesting to consider how the digital age and the Corley Explorer Webpage will provide the key to unlocking the code to enable every one of the Corley’s houses to be located and revisited anew.  The process has started and according to SLQ sources the Corley Explorer in the first few weeks has enabled a further 14% of the collection to be identified. SEE the Stories webpage HERE.

Back in Frank Corley’s shed nearly 25 years ago I could never had imagined how those boxes of house photos could provide the amazing opportunities that we are just now encountering with this exhibition and other uses yet to be discovered. But I did know one thing and that is I could not allow them to be lost. I’m sure that Frank would feel quite chuffed that his unsuccessful unsold photographs have finally found success and have made the journey from his home to a their rightful home in the history of Queensland.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

(1) LINK TO: The Imagery Gallery Archive is held in the State Library of Queensland

In the exhibition – I muse that this man was Frank looking at the interest his work has now received…

 

Various links and associated reports and reviews of the Corley Collection follow:

 

The SLQ website for the exhibition:   http://home.slq.qld.gov.au/

SLQ Home Website Banner

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Photographs of the exhibition’s opening event on December 6, 2018

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My video of the exhibition opening


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2 Special commission video projects produced, directed and edited by Shih-Yin Judy Yeh. These videos present the story of Frank and Eunice Corley and the SLQ work with the Corley Collection.

 

SLQ The Corley story Video

 

 

A video describing the SLQ’s  story about the Corley collection, includes information about the donation, conservation and investigation

 

 

A link to the Annerley-Stephens History Group’s Corley project HERE

 

An SLQ event with Denis Peel and Kate Dyson talking about the Annerley-Stephens History Group project HERE

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Frank Corley Wikipedia HERE

 

ArchitectureAu article HERE

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Brisbane News / Sydney Morning Herald Article HERE

 

 

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All photographs © Doug Spowart unless othervise credited. The copyrights in other material and website resides with their relevant copyright owners.

 

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