Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Archive for June 2011

June 24 – Visiting the 2011 OLIVE COTTON

leave a comment »

Tamara Dean's First Prize Image "Damien Skipper"

The Tweed River Art Gallery @ Murwillumbah is once again hosting the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture – The exhibition will be on show until July 31, 2011.

This year the Judge was Naomi Cass from CCP in Melbourne and as usual the selected works present a comprehensive review of contemporary Australian photo portraiture from the best photographers in the country as well as the latest crop of emerging image-makers. The portrait remains one of the most fascinating genres of photography – there is something about the face that connects with the viewer.

Some observations

In this year’s Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture there was something for everyone. This exhibition always provides a broad overview of contemporary photographic practice as 2D wall presented images.

The process and media by which the works were made were described by didactic panels placed around the gallery —everything from cyanotypes to gliclee printing and from Type C to inkjet. Those looking for historical processes found large format (whole plate?) ambrotypes paying tribute to the soft romantic feel of 19th century photography. Sizes of the works ranged from the larger than life images of the famous and infamous to the small personal and the everyday through which we can all find some empathy and connection.

In this mix there seemed to be a trend towards the selection of the reinvented holiday or family album snapshot—mostly in black and white. Some of these images showed the poser/s as acting out or ‘hamming up’ personal moments which when placed on the gallery walls transformed these images into arcane representations of everyday life. Others, whether staged or seen images, were illustrations of current political and cultural issues reframed by utilizing the informality and familiarity of the snap shot and then presented as austere gallery-crafted images for the consideration of thoughtful viewers.

For me, the most successful portraits are the ones that draw upon a deep understanding of photographic quality (tone, colour, detail, time etc.) and aesthetics. Alongside this there needs to be a flexible and experimental approach to style embedded in the psyche of the photographer that is combined with an empathy and curiosity for the subject. For me the portrait is developed through time spent by the photographer in collaboration with the subject and created in a moment of synergy and intensity that distils the portrait concept. The strength, depth and intensity of this collaboration, if handled skilfully, can visually transfer an afterimage onto the viewer’s imagination and memory that transcends the gallery experience.  For me all of these decisive factors came together in not only the winning image of Tamara Dean, Damien Skipper, but they were also very strong in Russell Shakespeare’s, Michael Zavros and Samantha Everton’s, Illusion.


Victoria Cooper  25 June 2011


TO ACCESS a list of the finalists and the winners visit:


DOWNLOAD a copy of the catalogue for the 2011 Award here


June 24 – Visit to Barratt Galleries, Alstonville

leave a comment »

On the way south through northern New South Wales we called in on Julie Barratt at Barrett Galleries @ Altsonville. Julie’s current show is by photographer Mike Greenslade and is called Beneath the Surface.

SEE: http://www.barrattgalleries.com.au

Julie spoke of the challenges of operating a regional gallery and her current honours studies at Southern Cross University. She excitedly told us about the Hankie Project being shown in a Melbourne Gallery soon. The Hankie project incorporated handkerchiefs from over one hundred artists that commented on the loss of a loved one – their response as artists was  represented on a handkerchief.

SEE: http://objectsofthedead.blogspot.com/2010/06/media-release-from-opening-at-barratt.html

We photographed Julie in the gallery in a moment of exhilaration – A flying Julie!!

Julie Barratt flying

Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

June – SQIT Photo Student mosaic for Empire Theatre’s 100th

leave a comment »

Students help celebrate the Empire’s 100th Anniversary

 Students from my Commercial Photography class recently spent a couple of hours documenting Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre. The images were integrated by me into a 2.1 metre-long trans-luminated mosaic image. The work was integrated into the exhibition ‘100 years Empire Theatre: Historical items from the Theatre’s collection‘ at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery.

The Empire Theatre is well-known for the Art Deco architectural structure and decorative elements that were part of its 1930s reconstruction. The building is a photographer’s delight as at every turn there are new views and design elements that can create great abstract forms.

After photography the images were optimised by students and passed over for integration into the triptich’s 70 x 210cm design.

The EMPIRE image mosaic by SQIT students

SEE the Toowoomba Chronicle details   http://www.thechronicle.com.au/story/2011/05/17/evolution-empire-toowoomba/

The exhibition @ the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

The exhibition at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery includes a photographic exhibition of the reconstruction of the Empire that was undertaken in 1996-7. The photographer was Lucy Robertson-Cuninghame and the images were completed at the time as part of her Associate Diploma of Photography work.

SEE the Chronicle story for details   http://www.thechronicle.com.au/story/2011/05/23/theatres-rich-history-on-show/

Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 19, 2011 at 10:14 am

June 13 – Speakers@PSQ Convention, Goondiwindi

leave a comment »

PSQ Goondiwindi Logo

Victoria’s topic was “Our home : emoh ruO” which dealt with re- visualizing local neighbourhoods, landscapes and familiar places with personal narratives and perspectives.

She says that, “We all have experienced disaster and change within our own “back yard”. We have been flooded repeatedly by images of this destruction and it’s traumatic effects on humanity. Is it now time, rather than yearning for the exotic travel photo experience, to re-discover our everyday environments and invent new ways of visualizing ourselves and the land we inhabit? Victoria Cooper will be discussing her work in this area and how places can be transformed by bringing together knowledge and personal experience to build creative visual stories.”

Vicky speaks at the convention

Doug’s topic was “LANDSCAPE: Between the covers”  in which he spoke about making photobooks of the landscape. His lecture dealt with the idea of the extended narrative of the book and how the ‘artists’ book’ can inform contemporary photobook making. His talk was illustrated by examples and his own work in the form of the hand-made (home-made) book. Ideas about the print-on-demand book and the do-it-yourself monograph were covered. He said “Ken Duncan and Steve Parish did it – You can do it too — Self publish and have Fun!”

Attendees viewing Cooper+Spowart books

The PSQ Convention program speakers program included the photodocumentary photographer John Elliott, Somalia hostage Nigel Brennan and large format guru Richard White.

More details of the event may be available on the website:


Vicky+Doug with PSQ President Gerry Saide

Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 13, 2011 at 7:43 am

June 11 – Lydia Egunnike – Qld Disaster Hero, Ipswich Ceremony

leave a comment »

Premier Anna Bligh @ Qld Disaster Heroes Ceremony - Ipswich

 For those who follow our WOTWEDID blog will remember the post about the salvage work done on the Sandy Barrie Photo Collection that was inundated in the Ipswich Floods. Conservator Lydia Egunnike, a member of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials, worked tirelessly with a team that included Noel, John Rossiter and Peter Marquis-Kyle.

As part of Anna Bligh’s Queensland Government DISASTER HEROES awards Lydia, and Sandy’s friend and Salvage Recovery Co-ordinator – Marcel Safier, were both nominated for the dedication and support that they provided during the emergency.

Lydia attended the award ceremony at Ipswich today – Vicky and I attended the event to congratulate Lydia and the members of her team who were able to attend.

Words+Pictures: Doug Spowart

SEE original story post https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/flood-image-salvage-sandy-barrie-collection/

Noel, Christine Ianna, Lydia, John Rossiter and Victoria Cooper

Lydia's Medal and Certificate

For other information about the Queensland Disaster Heroes awards SEE:



Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 11, 2011 at 8:25 am

May 30, 2011 – Celebration of a Life: Helen Cooper

leave a comment »

Vicky speaking at the service PHOTO: John Elliott

Celebration of a Life: Helen Cooper

Susan Sontag in her seminal, although now somewhat aged, book On Photography stated that, ‘All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out that moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.’1

Vicky’s mother Helen passed away last week. Aged 89 Helen was quite a character and a local identity in Toowoomba. As part of a service to celebrate her life we assembled a photographic record of her life from images that she had gathered over the years as well as images from family and friends. Whilst the idea of a slide show is considered a standard part of any memorial service when we came to make our own, particularly as photographers, we were captivated by poignancy of the photographic image that we worked with.

Helen’s image collection traversed over half of the history of photography beginning with classic 1920s studio portraits, warm sepia family groups and dreamy high key pen-wash portraits. The oldest photograph is the youngest image of Helen is a snapshot: torn corners, creases, with the patina of being handled and held as a fragment of existence—perhaps even a cherished talisman in the journey of life.

The flow of images can only represent a small fraction of the life lived. Moments captured in a time and Place. Snaps of a young woman, full-length in the landscape, the bathing costume, and a young man appears, the young woman models on the beach full of the promise of life. The young man, Reg, becomes husband—a swatch of beautifully hand-coloured wedding prints attests to that, a house follows and then the first child, then two and soon there are three—another house, another baby.

The photographic process changes and as such identifies the passage of time. The photographs transition from 1930s soft black and white hand coloured studio portraits, to home processed contact prints, on to the gritty 1970s black and white and finally to the dominance of colour firstly from square colour images of 126 Kodak Instamatic cameras to contemporary digital.

The images depict a family growing up, having fun at Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, one graduates from university. The flow of life continues … weddings grand children – all come and visit Helen and Reg. In the middle years colour photographs emerge from the albums—a pink dress and Reg in a sunlit garden, a new home in a wilderness, a place that we now know is the metropolis of Coolum. New Guinea holidays, another image with Reg holding someone’s baby.

Then Helen faces a new life on her own, a new house—with the garden, family memories surround, and the photographs show meetings with family members, now older with their own grown up kids. More weddings, pictures with birds an ANZAC parade, a scene in a coffee shop—the images shift from Helen to two, and then three generations of Cooper. Helen grows older, family visits, church groups, breakfasts downtown—another hat, another . . . another

The photograph as Sontag once quipped is ‘incontrovertible proof’ of existence—but for whom is the proof required? Helen’s collected images were undoubtedly her memories, a record of moments – memorable ones. Moments that define a life and life shared. At the time of her passing the photographs become as Sontag suggests, ‘both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence’. 2

The images in this sequence present both presence and absence—photographs provide a poignant bridge to what has been, memories and an understanding of a life well lived.

On Photography, Susan Sontag, 1979, Penguin Books, page 15

ibid, page 16

Helen Cooper - YouTUBE Video


Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 5, 2011 at 11:10 am

%d bloggers like this: