Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog


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Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013


Vicky and I were in Sydney last week. It is a Big city, lots of things to see and do, festivals; Vivid, Headon and Reportage, people everywhere with phones, iPads and DSLRs shooting. We joined in the photo foray that is Sydney and found in ourselves – and in our subjects, a connection with Australian documentary photography that threaded from Parke’s glowing ghost-light, to Dupain and Moore’s modernist clean lines and then all the way back to Cazneaux’s warm pictorialist pictures. These connections with the history of photography were warm and fuzzy for me and gave a feeling of confidence, comfort and purpose for my engagement with image making.


I began to think about photography and photographers today, particularly the often cited us and them divide between those who have a significant history, both professional and academic in photography, and those who pick up a camera, or use their smart imaging device and just take pictures.

Questions arose – I’ll use the terms vernacular and serious to distinguish my discussion of these two groups:

  • Does a sense of history and experience in photography really make a difference to the ‘quality’ of the resulting image?
  • There is a lot of hype and acceptance of the snapshot ethic within photography circles – so what is the difference when between a serious and a vernacular snapshot photo?
  • Is the general public today more astute about image design, content, moment of capture than serious photographers choose to give them credit for?
  • Is there any difference in the workflow between serious photographers and those ubiquitous vernacular snappers? Isn’t photography still about; having access to imaging technology>looking/seeing/experiencing the world>responding to visual triggers>readying the imaging device>considering it in the viewscreen>take the picture at a selected time/timing> and then doing something with it?
  • Does it make a difference if the vernacular photographer engages in a spontaneous act of self-documentation and the serious photographer engages in the process with a methodology that which is informed by a past lived in photography and the appreciation of the underpinning awareness of the photoimaging process, technology, visual literacy and human sociology?
  • Are both the vernacular and the serious photographer’s images ultimately the result of the assimilation of every studied or subliminal idea and visual influence that they have encountered?

On these days in Sydney I made my photographs, as did thousands of other photographers who shared my interest in using the photograph, or the very act of photography, to ‘still’ a moment in time. But are there other synergies at play? The philosopher Wilém Flusser might an alternate view on what photographer, vernacular and serious alike. In his book, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000) Flusser proposes that everyone using photography is essentially being seduced by the camera and its ‘program’. He states:

Both those taking snaps and documentary photographers, however, have not understood ‘information.’ What they produce are camera memories, not information, and the better they do it, the more they prove the victory of the camera over the human being. (Flusser 2000:59)

Perhaps then, if Flusser is right, we have no say in the process at all and that we are merely slaves to the technology. With that in mind, I guess I’ll just continue to make ‘camera memories’ so that the camera and I can connect with the times, and the places, that we shared together …

Doug Spowart       8 June 2013




My Olympus Pen & me: May 27-30, 2013


Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013



All  photographs by my Olympus Pen whose ‘program’ made me take the photos….

© Doug Spowart 2013.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



7 Responses

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  1. Hi Guys, these are such great photos, B&W brilliant

    deb Gilmartin

    Deb Gilmartin

    June 11, 2013 at 10:06 pm

  2. Much to ponder and brilliant captures……anne h

    anne howard

    June 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

    • Thanks Anne

      • Hi Doug,

        Great article on wotwedid.

        Have tweeted link, with responses e.g. paste below.

        Do you mind adding a link to http://www.pozible.com/retakemelbourne which is in its final days and needs more crowd funding support to make happen? $1,792 pledged of A$6,000 Target with 10 days to go.

        Thank you, James

        Begin forwarded message:

        From: “CMII (Twitter)” <n-wzpneqyr=argpba.arg.nh-588a5@postmaster.twitter.com> Subject: CMII (@CMII_DU) retweeted one of your Tweets! Date: 12 June 2013 9:44:07 AM AEST To: James McArdle <jmcardle@netcon.net.au>

        [https://ea.twimg.com/email/t1/ribbon.png] James McArdle, Your Tweet was retweeted! [James McArdle]

        [James McArdle] James McArdle @JamesmMcArdle

        DOCUMENT MAKING IN METROPOLISwp.me/p1tT11-Po via @RegionalArtist@HEDUAOnline @CCP_Australia in research>pozible.com/retakemelbourne

        07:33 AM – 12 Jun 13

        [https://ea.twimg.com/email/t1/retweet_icon.png] Retweeted by


        [CMII] CMII @CMII_DU To 12 followers.


        Learn more about @CMII_DU. View their profile

        Forgot your Twitter password? Get instructions on how to reset it. You can also unsubscribe from these emails or change your notification settings. Need help? If you received this message in error and did not sign up for Twitter, click not my account. Twitter, Inc. 1355 Market St., Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94103

        Dr James McArdle, Associate Professor in the Image: Photography/Graphics Faculty of Arts & Education/School of Communication & Creative Arts/Photography Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC, Australia, 3125 Phone: 9246 8234 Mobile: 0459 690 707 Email: james.mcardle@deakin.edu.au Web: http://deakin.academia.edu/JamesMcArdle Videoconference me via Jabber https://www.ciscojabbervideo.com/james.mcardle@jabber.com OR Skype: jamesmartinmcardle Follow me on Twitter @JamesmMcArdle And on my blog: Blog Camera/Eye: http://wp.me/1ZU6J

        CURRENT: Retake Melbourne, a Pozible crowd-funded research project by the crowd! To participate in and/or pledge for this project will be to illuminate and contrast her hidden past with her contemporary presence through re(peat)-photography… http://www.pozible.com/retakemelbourne

        UPCOMING: Cultures of the Suburbs June 27 2013 Symposium Hofstra Uni New York RECENT: Exhibitor: Evanescent Castlemaine State Festival 15-24 March 2013 Presenter: SPECTRA SCIENCE ART SYMPOSIUM, Canberra; CSIRO Discovery Centre 2 – 5 October 2012 Presenter: The Visual in Education Research 4 5 October 2012 Deakin University, Melbourne City Centre, Sponsored by the Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation

        http://www.deakin.edu.au Deakin University CRICOS Provider Code 00113B Follow ‘Deakin University – Arts and Education’ on Twitter

        Become a fan of the ‘Deakin University – Arts and Education’ Facebook page


        June 12, 2013 at 11:46 am

  3. I really enjoy your images – the B&W lends itself to an almost ‘past era’ context despite being in the contemporary moment.

    As to the serious versus the vernacular – I think anyone who says they have a passion for photography often pass the ‘snapshot and memory taking’ stage when they get tired of it looking like everyone else’s photographs. That isn’t to say they are slaves to technology. I just think technology mistakenly gives people the idea that it is easy to do and it is only when you do it again and again, one beings to realise the difficulty in making an image that is unique, stands out, becomes memorable or resonates with someone other than your immediate friends and family.

    Some at this point give up and continue with the family and memory snapshots, whilst others continue to search for meaning within the image. It is when people realise that although ‘pretty’ pictures have their place, gritty, uncomfortable, abstract, plainer photography may say more.

    Eva Turek-Jewkes

    June 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  4. […] Here are the details… From the POZIBLE project page […]

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