Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog


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In a photobook judging...

In a photobook judging…


The photobook: And the winner is…


Any field of human endeavor seems to have connected with it a need for measurement, for qualification and quantification – a need to find the best, the fastest, tallest, smartest, dumbest, prettiest and ugliest. The photobook is no exception. Every year when the call goes out for entries to be submitted, or when the winners of numerous awards are announced the worldwide photobook community responds.

To attract those who make, or share an interest in, the photobook there are many incentives to participate in awards including:

  • Winning an award leads to sales for the book
  • Winning awards enhances reputations and future opportunities for the maker/s
  • Winning awards can provide opportunities to publish through prize money and/or ‘in-kind’ services
  • Entering awards provide an opportunity to present your ideas, your stories and your creation process to other participants of the discipline
  • By entering an award your concepts and narrative expression can reach extended audiences.

Additionally those who coordinate awards also receive compensation. Companies promote their products and services through organising and/or sponsoring awards. Organisations like art museums, professional associations, and significant commentators of the discipline all stand to gain prominence through the awards that they support. An interesting cross-section of photobook awards could include: The Kassel Photobook Dummy Awards, InFocus Photobook Exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum, Photobook Bristol Festival, New Zealand Photobook of the Year Award, and The Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards. The income from entry fees can also go towards offsetting the costs of prize monies and running the award.

Any award would not take place without a judging, but how are judges selected? What are the attributes of a good judge? Generally judges come from the various, and sometimes disparate, groups within the discipline for example: a photographer, a publisher, a book designer, a printer or a critic. As each judge brings to the judging his or her ideas and opinions regarding what makes a great photobook, the assessment session can be an interesting space to witness.

There is one common discussion point for any photobook judging – What is a photobook? The diversity of the discipline defies a standard definition and may include: newspaper styled items, funky zines, and the bespoke hand-made ‘artists book’, self-published books using digital POD technologies, trade published books and designer confections. Photobooks can contain photographs only, they can be books with photographs and accompanying texts, prose, poetry, captions and they also can be complex and sophisticated design experiences – book as object. In a photobook competition all these can compete for the overall award title. It’s like all the Olympic pool-based events being run simultaneously in the one pool, from high diving to the 100 metre dash –– Chaos…!

Getting a result requires consensus that can only be achieved through a process of review, discussion and the sharing of opinions and insights. Perhaps the assessment task would be simpler if there was a solitary judge.

Another concern is the number of books could a judge be reasonably expected to fully engage with before being overcome by the inability to fairly and consistently consider each entry. Other questions arise: Do strong and articulate judges sway the panel decision? Does every book say the same thing to every reader? And how does bias for or against certain book styles, photographers, and publishers or photographic content affect the judging outcome?

In the world of photobooks one thing is for certain – awards and competitions are not going to go away anytime soon. Social scientist Pierre Bourdieu in his book ‘Photography: a middle brow art’ commented that:

It is no accident that passionate photographers are always obliged to develop the aesthetic theory of their practice, to justify their existence as photographers by justifying the existence of photography as a true art. 1

Perhaps all those who, through organizing, entering and judging awards ultimately help to create dialogue, definition and an aesthetic that justifies the photobook’s existence as a ‘true art’.


Dr Doug Spowart August 25, 2016


  1. Bourdieu, Pierre. Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. Translated by Shaun Whiteside. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press, 1996.



Text+Image ©2016 Doug Spowart

Written by Victoria Cooper Doug Spowart

September 9, 2016 at 12:19 pm


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Travelling along highways north….


We are travelling up to north Queensland at the end of September for a month of artists’ book and photography projects, workshops and lectures.


The artists in tropical garb with palm trees...

The artists in tropical garb with palm trees…


Our Journey …




Capricornia Printmakers logo

Capricornia Printmakers logo



We will present an evening talk about our artists books/photobooks and the Siganto Foundation Research Fellowships work we have been doing in the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland.




Here are the details…


SpowartCooper flyer







Here are the details…




October 16-22 WINTON: NOCTURNE WINTON – To be confirmed

See our other Nocturne Projects …  HERE

A few images like those we could be making at Winton follow…


Walker's Hotel, Grafton

Walker’s Hotel, Grafton

Trucks through town...

Trucks through town…

A group of Nocturne photographers

A group of Nocturne photographers


Nocturne Winton Facebook Logo

Nocturne Winton FB Logo







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Doug Spowart: researcher in the Repository of the State Library of Queensland

Doug Spowart: researcher in the Repository of the State Library of Queensland



I’VE BEEN HOLDING MY BREATH FOR MANY WEEKS – waiting for an email about an amazing research opportunity at the National Library of Australia that I’d applied for and had heard, unofficially, that I had been shortlisted. A 3-month research Fellowship with access to the Library’s extensive resources, remuneration and living expenses was a possibility that was tantalisingly close. Importantly, the Fellowship would enable me to significantly enhance and create some conclusion to years of independently funded study in my chosen field of photobooks – particularly Australian photobooks.


A couple of days ago I received the email…


Dear Dr Spowart
Thank you for applying for a National Library of Australia Fellowship.  I regret to inform you that your application on this occasion was unsuccessful.  There was a large field of highly competitive applications from both established and early career researchers and from independent scholars, making selection a challenging task for the Library’s Fellowships Advisory Committee.


For your information I have included some components of my NLA Fellowship application.


TITLE: Looking into a mirror – The Australian Photobook 1970-2000


When we look into an Australian photobook and we see our history, our culture and ourselves. Although interest in the photobook internationally in the last 10-15 years has sparked academic research and the publication of numerous histories this has not been reflected in the Australian scene.

In 2011 NLA Harold White Fellow Dr Martyn Jolly conducted research that covered broad aspects of Australian photobook publishing with a concentration on the rise of the photographically illustrated book in the 1960s. He stated that this era: ‘…set the stage for Australia’s much better known ‘photography boom’ of the 1970s’.

This research Fellowship will address the need for research, critique and commentary to discuss the Australian form of the photobook. The resulting presentations and publications are intended to celebrate the photobooks’ special ability to provide a time capsule snapshot of political, environmental and social movements beyond Jolly’s 1960s research.

As a visual communication medium the photobook becomes a mirror to the nation through which we can see not only ourselves, but also how we present our country to the world. This research will ‘look into the mirror’, and reveal the valuable contribution that photobooks, through image and design, made in telling Australian stories.



The need for the research

In Australia the main focus of published research in photography has been of the photograph itself with scant recognition for the photographically illustrated book. This is despite the fact that the photobook, although considered as being primarily about photography, by default, also represents Australian graphic design history. Photobooks then are a collaborative product where the photograph and graphic design synergistically merge to create a sophisticated communiqué.

Dr Martyn Jolly noted in a paper published in the History of Photography journal that: The role of the photobook has been unjustly neglected in the various histories of Australian photography. However, books primarily illustrated with photographs and celebrating various aspects of Australian life and landscape – ‘Australiana’ photobooks – have been a fundamental part of the nation’s publishing industry since the 1920s.

Recently, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ exhibition The Photograph and Australia was acclaimed as one of the largest collection of historical photographic images in Australia, and yet only only showed five photobooks. In the exhibition’s catalogue introduction Curator Judy Annear, makes no apology for what may seem as the marginalisation of the photobook but rather acknowledges that there is so much more to be done. She states in the concluding sentence that: The history of the photograph and its relationship to Australia remains tantalisingly partial; the ever-burgeoning archives await further excavation.



The research

My research will cover the date range from 1970 to 2000 and will follow on from Dr Martyn Jolly’s Harold White Fellowship area of review.

As a result of PhD research and post-doctoral work on the intersection of artists’ books and photobooks I am well positioned to review and comment on the twin perspectives of photography and book design.


The Aims of the research

The aim of my proposed research at the NLA will be to:

  • Provide a structural framework for the discussion of Australian photobook in the era 1970-2000;
  • Identify aspects of the Australian photobook including graphic design and narrative expression that contribute to its own unique identity in an international context;
  • Seek opportunities to identify and give prominence to photobooks and their makers; and
  • Elevate the stature of the photobook in contemporary photography and design discourse in Australia.

Aspects of the research

Aspects of the research include:

  • The presence and influence of design trends in photobooks of the era;
  • Circumstances where the photographer may have been the designer of the book as is the case with many Mark Strizic books;
  • The emergence of the artists’ book based on photography such as Peter Lyssiotis’ photomontage works;
  • Art photography and its exploration of photographic representation in the form of the book;
  • Photobooks exploring themes of Feminism;
  • Landscape photography and its alliance with environmentalism; and
  • Evidence of the emergence of land rights and Aboriginal activism through photobooks.

Other details of the application followed…


I will apply again and for the moment continue my personally funded research.


Until next time, the researcher awaits an opportunity…

Portrait of the author in Wilfredo Prieto's 'Untitled' (White Library) at MONA

Portrait of the author in Wilfredo Prieto’s ‘Untitled’ (White Library) at MONA


Written by Victoria Cooper Doug Spowart

August 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm

ALCHEMY & THE DARK ARTS – Workshops in the Maud Darkroom

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FB-Cover-Tissandier's darkroom-1000


A NEW SERIES OF B&W PHOTO DARKROOM workshops in the MAUD/Dart will take place in November – details and bookings will be available soon…


Irena processing film in the darkroom

Irena processing film in the darkroom


Irena, the gallery director, has a passion for the world of analogue photography. We have all been working together to develop a focus of fine art photography for Maud Gallery.  Last year we presented some introductory workshops in black and white darkroom titled  ‘ALCHEMY and the Dark Arts’ where we had a lot of fun with a small enthusiastic group.


Analogue film group shoot-out

Analogue film group shoot-out


Recently Irena has re-vamped her darkroom at the gallery transforming it to provide a facility for other enthusiasts to hone their photography craft. As part of this new initiative we have designed a series of workshops to re-invigorate the analogue world. The workshops are for small numbers to provide hands-on practical experience for participants. Additionally the darkroom will be available for hire and Maud Gallery has linked with ILFORD to supply those hard to get papers and chemicals.




The workshops are for small groups and are suitable for people wanting to learn about the art of processing and printing black and white photographs in the darkroom. These workshops may be of interest to you or you may know of someone who has an interest in this area – please feel free to pass on this email.


Here’s a video of working in the darkroom…



The workshops are:





Limited number of 6 participants (min 4 to run) – Demonstration + Practical

This session will provide you with an opportunity to experience the dark art of B&W FILM PROCESSING. Importantly this session is intended as a ‘see how it’s done’ as well as a ‘do it yourself’ activity. You will be invited to bring along a 35mm-24 exposure or 120 black and white film that will be processed by you as part of the workshop.

Who would benefit from this session:

  • People with no previous practical processing or printing experience including those who might have seen darkroom work done but not engaged with it at any significant level
  • Those who may have done darkroom work some time ago and are seeking a refresh program to update them on the contemporary process.

TOPICS: Film processing

  • The workspace
  • Chemicals – preparation/storage/ disposal/Safety
  • Processing tanks
  • Loading spirals
  • The processing sequence – time/temperature/agitation/wash/dry/sleeve
  • What can go wrong
  • Do I have good negs…?


This session links with Darkroom Series Parts 2 & 3.

Times: To be advised

Cost: $55 per person (Includes chemicals and negative sleeve)






Limited number of 6 participants (min 4) – Demonstration + Practical

In this session you will encounter and experience the Dark Art of PRINTING B&W NEGATIVES. The topics will cover all of the key information required to setup and work in a darkroom making your own prints. If you processed negatives in series 1 you will have a contact sheet made.

This session is a ‘show and tell’ of the following topics. Handouts and URL links to useful sites are included in the session notes provided.

Who would benefit from this session:

  • People with no previous practical printing experience including those who might have seen darkroom work done but not engaged with it at any significant level
  • Those who may have done darkroom work some time ago and are seeking a refresh program to update them on the contemporary process.

TOPICS: Printing and darkroom

  • Darkroom design for workflow – Wet/Dry
  • Chemicals and handling / Safety
  • Enlargers – What is a good one…?
  • Preparing the darkroom for print-making
  • Making contact and test prints
  • Making the print
  • Density and contrast / using filters
  • Dodge and burn – localised density and contrast control
  • How to minumise spots, marks and scratches
  • Process / wash / dry
  • Using plastic (RC) paper
  • Setting up an impromptu darkroom in a bathroom or laundry

This session links with Darkroom Series Parts 3: DIY PRINTING.

DATE: To be advised

Cost: $55 per person (includes 1 contact sheet size 10×8 + chemicals)



2 groups of 3 participants – Practical

A supervised printmaking session using your negatives. After being introduced to an enlarger for the session you will make test prints, select the appropriate contrast grade and use basic print enhancement techniques to produce your own prints.

You will work with a specialist darkroom practitioner to direct and support the printing session enabling you to make the most of this special opportunity.

This session will include a critique of the work created.

After completion of this series participants will be able to hire the Maud Gallery darkroom either as an individual or with mentored support.

DATE: To be advised.

NOTE: This session has a maximum of 3 participants – The first three bookings will be in the first time slot 1.00 – 3.30pm. The next bookings will be in the 3.30 – 6.00pm time slot.

Cost: $115 per person – includes 10 sheets 24x30cm (9.5”x12”) paper valued @ $32 + chemicals

Minimum number of participats to run the workshop is 2.






Doug and an award winning print

Doug and an award winning print


A full day of working with a darkroom master to create a ‘Fine Art’ print from one of their negatives. At the end of the day the print will be ready for framing.



Soon details of the Maud Gallery Darkroom hire will be available as well as the availability of photographic chemistries and papers. Mentored darkroom sessions will be available as well for those developing their skills in the Dark Arts.

So, do check out the details in each of the Eventbrite events above and don’t hesitate to contact us should you want some more information.







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Mangrove Blue – Orpheus Island 2005

Mangrove Blue – Orpheus Island 2005    PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Victoria + Doug

Victoria + Doug



“Come with us to the Great Barrier Reef’s Orpheus Island 

2-8 October 2016 for a workshop with Les Walkling …”


Les Walkling's Colorspace portrait – Orpheus Island 2005    PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Les Walkling’s Colorspace portrait – Orpheus Island 2005 PHOTO: Doug Spowart



Orpheus Island Photography Workshop is a full seven day all-inclusive unique experience designed for professional photographers and enthusiast/non-professional photographers.  The James Cook University Orpheus Island Research Station is a world class research and teaching facility, and the tropical islands provide for amazing photographic opportunities.  Featured this year will be Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart.  This is the twelfth year Les has presented this workshop and he rates it as his best.


The workshop comprises lectures, demonstrations and presentations each morning, backed up with hands-on work after lunch and into the evening utilizing state-of-the-art printing facilities and a fully colour managed professional workflow.

Escape the winter blues for a week on a tropical island and be inspired by an amazing photography experience with Les, Victoria and Doug. 

  • Gain creative insights and how to put the “Wow” factor into your images;
  • Explore bookmaking and fine art photography with Doug and Vicki;
  • Learn self development and marketing ideas for you and your business;
  • Polish your digital capture and advanced processing techniques;
  • Print perfect colour or black & white images every time, whether through your own printer or at your pro lab;
  • Work with our sponsors and try out their latest equipment, all types of printing media, and win lots of prizes;
  • Polish your workflow for maximum efficiency while achieving brilliant colour and the highest impact in images for your clients, your gallery, or for award competitions;
  • Experience superb underwater photography locations for snorkeling and beachcombing;


Check out the videos from past workshops:


Book now to reserve your space at Orpheus Island.

Experience the best “live in” workshop for photographers in Australia.


Go to:http://www.leswalkling.com/courses/orpheus-2016/





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WHO will be the 60,000th viewer…?


Leave a message….


A couple of minutes later…   THANK YOU…!

Let us know if you’ve just visited…


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This morning it’s now….


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Written by Victoria Cooper Doug Spowart

July 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm


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Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper


Vicky has recently posted a her latest paper about her research on the State Library of Qld’s Blog. This latest post comments on the montage and is illustrated by some interesting books from the SLQ’s Artists’ Book Collection.

Read on or visit the post here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/


Reading Montages: perceptions, dilemmas, edges and resolution.

Nomenclature Dilemma: Collage or Montage

In this third blog post I will share the dilemmas of encountering the blurred boundaries associated with the lexicon of these art forms, for example: What is the difference between collage and montage? Does it matter? Are there different “readings” of collage vs montage images that have been reproduced by mechanical or digital means for both wall art, or as encountered in my research, book forms? I will present an Occam’s Razor resolution arising from the considerations that inform my research to provide a path through the complexity of these issues.

Responding to terminology dilemma:

As I progress through the research I am continually confronted with terminology issues and questions regarding the nature of montage and its intersection with collage. The dilemma is with me as a kind of Sisyphean cycle where, after climbing the mountain of wondrous diversity in the Australian Library of Art artists’ book collection; I am drawn back down by the weighty issues of inconsistent terminology.

Many artists, who cut, arrange and glue disparate and/or mixed media elements refer to their work as collage or for computer made images, digital collage.  This should be the end of the debate as the etymology of collage is the French word ‘to glue’. But there are others who cut and piece together disparate elements and ‘glue’ and then fuse them within the image and refer to their process as montage (or digital montage for computer images). Also interesting to note is that the origin of the word montage is a French word meaning ‘to mount’.  Is there a need to differentiate between these similar practices? Does terminology affect the ‘reading’ of these works? In my art practice I refer to myself as a montage maker, thinker and reader and as such I bring my own perspective to reading visual narratives.

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who prefer to be known as paper artists, make collage works. Their unique state artists’ books and democratic multiples in the form of zines and editions of artists’ books have a place within this discussion.
Haby and Jennison responded to my email question regarding the nature of the digital work in their book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, where they state that: ‘Digital collages are made in chorus with unique state pieces. They are all a means of making, with the ‘how’ of lesser interest to us than the ‘why’ or ‘message’.

In their statement above they suggest that the means of the making is secondary to the final work. Even when the collage has been digitally scanned and then printed it remains, for them, a collage.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

The book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, presents the reader with an enchanted narrative through the composition of images and poetic texts across the pages. Underpinning the reading is the smooth and seamless joins of the elements creating a surreal landscape with a theatre of colourful inhabitants. The compositional elements draw the reader into a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience of reading: where the fused elements are arranged in a mise en page; and the turning page emulates the scenes of a paper movie (i) . The small size text comes through the reading as a poetic aside to underscore the scene.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

Haby and Jennison’s careful cutting and pasting of added elements over or alongside the original image distinguish their broader collage work.  Again, in these works the silent edges between these interventions and the original image provide uninterrupted reading. Importantly as this transition or interval between the elements goes unnoticed the added element ultimately colonize the interior space and time of the original image.

So far in my research, I have not found many artists that tear and roughly cut their elements intentionally leaving these edges in the final montage for the reader to interpret. One example however is Lorelei Clark’s work, ‘Brisbane: River City‘.

Although the elements are fused by digital

reproduction, their roughly torn or cut edges seem to separate the elements so that the reading is disturbed much like a jump-cut (ii)  edit in a film.

'Brisbane: River City'

‘Brisbane: River City’

The elements combined in this way demand separate attention and focus on individual parts of the narrative or issue presented. As the source material may have been glossy magazines or pictorial publications, these edges could represent a critique or even an attack on social issues that affect the human condition. In many ways the reading is unsettling, rather like the political montages of Peter Lyssiotis, they shout back at the reader.

'The very first book of fish'

‘The very first book of fish’

Another example of the rough cut collage can be found in Jack Oudyn’s Book of Fish series of small books, where the original collage or paste-up can be seen in the ALA collection along with the small zine like productions. Rather than attached to the surface, the reproduction of these collages fuses the elements into the page and transforms the reading of the text and images. In these little books, the elements are submerged within the narrative and seem to float around like the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.

Jack Oudyn 'The very first book of fish'.

Jack Oudyn ‘The very first book of fish’.

My resolve:

For the purpose of this research, I have decided to take account of how the artist defines their work as stated in the Library catalogue. As a researcher I am reliant on the information supplied by the artist, either in the form of an artist’s statement or catalogue information. This information allows a deep engagement with the work that ultimately enriches the reading experience for the researcher. Many may consider that too much information may reduce the potential for the book to be reimagined, but for readers like myself there are many ‘readings’ of an artists’ book.  As social scientist, Pierre Bourdieu suggests that an artwork is:

‘in fact made not twice, but hundreds of times, thousands of times by all those who have an interest in it, who find a material or symbolic profit in reading it, classifying it, decoding it, commenting on it, reproducing it, criticizing  it, combating it, knowing it, possessing it.’ (iii)

As mentioned earlier in this blog I refer to my work as montage, and align my methodology and inspiration with that of film and the pioneers of montage and page design from the early 20th century. In this research I have found similarities in the ‘reading’ of collages that have been either created or reproduced through mechanical or digital processes with the images created as montages. As I strive to engage with the many new ways of reading that each artist presents, any background information can take me into new spaces and places, each time I read the same book.

So rather than questioning the terminology, either a collage or montage, I am more informed by the way elements are grafted or combined; their arrangement on the page; the typography and page design. When the elements such as type, photographs, painting, drawing, found objects etc have been fused within the space of the page of the book by photomechanical, digital or another printmaking process, I will read these as a montage. As such, in the research I will consider the following:

•    whether I am seduced by nature of the smooth transition and the interval between elements is subliminal or if the torn edge focuses my attention;
•    whether the adjacency of the elements is disturbing or attacking my attempts to flow smoothly;
•    whether the transition has been digitally achieved or by hand if the information is available.

The nature of the edges of the combined visual elements within the composition is a profound aspect to reading these visual books. So rather than questioning the terminology, whether a collage or montage, I will continue in my ‘montage readings’ informed by the narratives contained within and between grafted edges.


Victoria Cooper


PART 2 of this research series can be viewed here https://wotwedid.com/2016/03/19/victorias-slq-blog-post-montage-research/


i. Lou Stoumen is the author of visual books including ‘Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie‘ (1975)
ii. Film makers Jean-Luke Godard and Sergei Eisenstein championed the use of discontinuity devices such as jump cuts in scenes to disrupt the flow of the cinematic narrative and create the illusion of moving through time and space. This was intended to engage the viewer proactively to think about the issues surrounding the scene.
iii. Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field’. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford University Press, 1996. Editions du Seuil 1992. Page 171.




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