Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

NICOLA POOLE’s ‘Lost Girls’ @ Gallery Frenzy, Brisbane

with 7 comments

Image from Nicola Poole's 'Lost Girls' exhibition

Lost Girls by Nicola Poole @ Gallery Frenzy, Brisbane.

Image from Nicola Poole's 'Lost Girls' exhibition

Image from Nicola Poole’s Lost Girls exhibition


Excerpts from my opening address:

Doug Spowart opens Nicola Poole's 'Lost Girls' exhibition

Doug Spowart opens Nicola Poole’s ‘Lost Girls’ exhibition

This morning on checking my Facebook news feed, there was a message from Darren Jew, of Brisbane’s Foto Frenzy Photography Centre, in which he described the ‘Oh My God’ moment at the age of 12, that inspired his life in photography. That moment was watching a black and white print develop in a tray in a darkroom. I was reminded of my same experience. From other posts there seemed to be quite a few others who were also seduced by the darkroom’s red safelight and its mysterious stinky chemicals.

I posted back to Darren posing the question: ‘how many 12 year olds are out there making digi images today and missing out on that OMG darkroom moment?’ Later, during a conversation with my partner Victoria, we made the interesting observation that in the old darkroom days we ‘MADE’ photographs in every sense of the word. Film was handled in darkness and loaded into tanks–chemicals added, agitation, water washes, hanging up to dry–negatives placed in the enlarger carrier, paper touched and slid into the easel, exposed to light, paper slipped into chemicals, trays rocked… etc. Photography was something that extended well after the shutter was fired. It took time and trouble for an image or two to emerge–made–from the process.

We thought that today with digital photography we just TAKE images–with rapidity and ease. Just click, add a filter effect or two and share. And we may take many, many images. In contemporary image taking the picture has a very transient and superficial value. Quickly taken and distributed they are even consumed faster on social media and quickly lost from view–particularly if you have lots of friends who post with the rapidity of a machine-gun. What is missing today is the time spent with an image realising it as a physical object. Digital imaging is like visual ‘fast food’. We, as consumers, end up fat, lazy and with pixelated indigestion.

What excites me about Nicola Poole’s Lost Girls exhibition is that Nicola has assembled a collection of cohesive thematic image work and formed it into a physical and tangible MADE thing. Over the last week at Foto Frenzy I have witnessed her making this show. Photographs handled, selected and compared, prints emerging line by line from the printer, matted/mounted/framed, placed in the gallery space shuffled–moved, re-ordered and hung. I know that selecting, preparing and presenting work in an exhibition is complex and demanding. The artist embeds their energy and time in it and we the viewers are rewarded in proportion to the care and effort expended in its making.

I congratulate Nicola Poole and applaud her energy, enthusiasm and vision. As a younger girl herself, it is appropriate that she should make photographs the comment on her own experiences and on her generation. As we engage with these photographs questions might emerge: are the subjects looking into memories of the past, or are they facing an uncertain future? These images evoke a sense of, or a time of, waiting–a kind of anxiety or anticipation for something or someone. As viewers we may ponder and be drawn into the narrative.

As to the Lost Girls–What I do know is that in the making of this exhibition, somehow they have all been ‘FOUND’.

And, as Nicola’s first solo exhibition, it is indeed my please to formally announce it open …

Dr Doug Spowart

Nicola Poole and Me

Nicola Poole and Me

Image from Nicola Poole's 'Lost Girls' exhibition

Image from Nicola Poole’s Lost Girls exhibition


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7 Responses

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  1. Doug, I think you have it all wrong. Your thinking process seems to yearn for days of old when the alchemist were in charge. I think the digital world has opened up the process and democratised the process of making and sharing images. There will always be (and always were) people who chose to do this at different levels.

    Careful you don’t choke on the verbal flood that seems to be spewing from your newly acquired doctorate.
    Many people are happy with one well chosen word as opposed to a mountain of words whose sole purpose is to hide meaning and create false prophets. I thought the purpose of education was to teach and enlighten not to baffle with bullshit.

    I look forward to your future proclamations.

    John Elliott

    April 7, 2013 at 3:13 am

    • G’Day John, I’m surprised with your comment as you are missing my argument totally – It was my intention to discuss an idea in a genuine and thoughtful way. Your comments seem to be coming from another some other place with some other angst and agendas.
      My whole issue is about time making – digital or otherwise – not about how great darkrooms were. As you know not many photographers rarely used them, hiring darkroom jockies to do their prints.
      Then we touched and handled photographs and there was time. Not only because we had to process or wait for the lab to run them for us, but also the time between the experience of making a photograph and our use of it as a product of experience and/or documentation.
      What having an exhibition does, and you know this well, is that it demands of us that we review, re-connect and handle our images physically and metaphorically. The images presented on a wall – or for that matter a book – are made with time and that time is given to the viewer in their contemplation of the work.
      After all is said and done, the image and its communication is ultimately the only value that a photograph can have – not its origins in digi-land or darkrooms …

  2. I have to admit to missing the darkroom not from any “alchemist” whatever the hell one of those is.. certainly nothing to do with photography, point of view, but I do miss the moment when a thought ie a neg becomes a pos.. I used to have a saying the darkroom is where the idea becomes a palpable reality where ideas become art and art becomes the idea… have I been back there since rolled over nup.. so what does that say.. I am less of a photgrapher.. I hope not, I hope that my ideas are still the things that will excite people.

    Roger Skinner

    April 7, 2013 at 10:20 pm

  3. Doug, I can’t thank you enough for your opening night speech and support throughout the Lost Girls exhibiting process! It was such an honour to have you & Vicki at opening night 🙂


    April 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm

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