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Archive for October 2013

SELFIES: A history according to Doug & Others

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Darren & Doug 'Selfie' @ Imagery Gallery C1987

Darren & Doug ‘Selfie’ @ Imagery Gallery c1987

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This recent Facebook post of a photo I made with Darren Jew in 1987 resulted in discussion around the idea of the ‘Selfie’ and my early connection with the technique. Around 12 years ago I discussed my inspiration and work with self-imaging in a university thesis – For your interest I publish the text here and add some images that date from my use of ‘Selfies’ in the 1980s.

For me the term ‘Selfie’ is a self image made by holding the camera at an arms length and angled back towards the photographer.

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Doug selfie @Birdsville 1983

Doin’ a selfie @ Birdsville 1983

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Self imagineering and portraits  (now called Selfies)

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For some time my photography has included the self-portrait.  The inspiration came from a friend (John Elliott) in the early 1980s who held up the camera before himself and friends and then fired the shutter.  He attributed his use of the technique to Jean Pigozzi a Hollywood paparazzi photographer who employed this method to make pictures which showed himself posing with the rich and famous subjects he photographed. In the book Pigozzi’s Journal of the Seventies Jann Wenner, then the Editor of Rolling Stone magazine, was to write in his introduction a description Pigozzi’s self-portraits as being: the ultimate fantasy of the fan in everyone: A picture of yourself with your favourite star. Conquests! Self-immortalisation!

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Jean Pigozzi with Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart with Jean Pigozzi

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My use of the technique was basically to make images documenting myself at tourist locations as I travelled usually as a photo tour leader. Perhaps I was a ‘fan’ of the location, the location was one of my ‘conquests’, or maybe I sought ‘self-immortalisation’ through the photo – whatever. For me it just seemed the logical way of resolving problems relating to the imaging of personal experiences.

Using a 35mm Leica rangefinder camera with 35mm, and later with a 21mm lens, enabled wide angled views and sufficient depth of field to achieve the view I wanted. These self-portrait images often exhibit a random approach to composition as precise viewfinder alignment was not possible. I took care not to ‘dress up’ for the photograph so my appearance is what it was – no brushing of the hair, no straightening of the collar. They are, as intended, frank and factual.

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Brishing off flies, Barry Caves NT, 1982

Waving away flies, Barry Caves NT, 1982

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In time these images formed a collection of “This is me at. . .“ pictures. They were a kind of “Foo was here” with me being the Foo graffiti figure. On occasions the only reason I would stop and photograph at a particular location was to capture another self-portrait for the collection. Sontag in her book On Photography alludes to this modus operandi in her comment that: Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. Travel and self-imagineering was indeed to put me in situations where I could produce photographs that told of my experience – often in a humorous way.

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Riding a dragon doin' a selfie, China 1989

Riding a dragon and doin’ a selfie, China 1989

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With Vicky & helicopter pilot, Heartbreak Hotel NT c1992

With Vicky & helicopter pilot, Heartbreak Hotel NT c1992

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There were other aspects pertaining to self-imagineering work which encouraged my practice. I found that thrusting the camera before myself and in front of tourists assembled at the place of visitation was a kind of art performance. It was a spontaneous act; a celebration of experience that culminated in the ritual of photo taking. Self-imaging was crammed with fun and triviality. And having fun, and being seen to have fun and capturing that fun were certainly part of the agenda that drove my interest in this activity. The technique often caught on and doin’ a self-portrait became part of my fellow tourist’s recording rituals as well.

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Mark, Tony & Rob doin' Selfies @ the Qld NY Birder 1983

Tony, Rob and Mark doin’ Selfies @ the Qld NT Border 1983

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Abridged from a Graduate Diploma thesis entitled My Shadow and I by Doug Spowart 2002. The thesis contains a discussion on the artist as tourist and the self-image as a document of personal experience.

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SOME MORE IMAGES:

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Selfie shadows with camera and ring-pulls, Alice Springs 1982

Selfie shadows with camera and ring-pulls, Alice Springs 1982

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‘Che’ (Doug) Selfie with Tony & Mark @ Three Ways NT, 1983

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Doug asleep on the coach after Steiglitz

On a coach in Central Australia 1982

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NEW UPDATES ON ‘SELFIES’

Texas town errects ‘selfies’ statue…

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31344/1/texas-town-erects-special-bronze-selfie-statue

TEXTS ON PIGOZZI

http://www.rencontres-arles.com/A11/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=ARL_211_VForm&Flash=1&FRM=Frame%3AARL_228&LANGSWI=1&LANG=English

http://www.helmutnewton.com/previous_exhibitions/pigozzi_and_the_paparazzi/index.html

A. D. COLEMAN’S COMMENT

http://www.nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/photocritic/2013/12/10/fine-art-photo-trickledown-1-the-selfie-a/#comment-33404

A RECENT ADDITION TO THE DISCUSION ON ‘SELFIES’ (Although I’d say it was a self portrait)

http://www.openculture.com/2013/11/the-first-selfie-in-history-1839.html

AND ‘THE OXFORD DICTIONARY ‘WORD OF THE YEAR’

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/an-infographic-of-selfie

AND A SPANISH INFOGRAPHIC

http://www.meionorte.com/noticias/tecnologia/mania-de-autorretrato-veja-os-dez-piores-tipos-de-selfies-no-instagram-227982.html

ANOTHER INFO GRAPHIC (English)

http://www.bestcomputerscienceschools.net/selfies/

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Images and text © Doug Spowart

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CAMERA OBSCURA 2000–2016: In hotels and other places

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Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

Bedroom Camera Obscura 2000 (Y2K)

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Our rhythms insert us into a vast and infinitely complex world, which imposes on us experience and the elements of this experience. Let us consider light, for example. We do not perceive it as a waveform carrying corpuscles but as a wonder that metamorphoses things, as an illumination of objects, as a dance on the surface of all that exists.…………

Henri Levebvre, Rhythmanalysis; Space, Time and Everday Life, page 82.

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Cooper+Spowart: 16 years of Camera Obscura Collaborations

In our collaborative work, we are interested in both the physical construct and cultural conventions that inform and shape us. This includes the common rituals and structures that surround, support and transport us in our everyday lives. In this work we have extended the context of documentary photographic methodology to include the narrative potential of the camera obscura and architectural projections.

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Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

Avochie Bathroom Camera Obscura

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In the camera obscura work the viewer’s perception of the everyday is spatially challenged. The structures that can form camera obscura are everywhere, but some spaces present themselves as clearly suitable for the making. This could be a city office, a motel room, a country bathroom or even a car. Our work attempts to contextualize the experience of the camera obscura within a concept, space or site. Upon entering the darkened space, the viewer is initially displaced, as the familiar image of the everyday is dim and unrecognizable. Then after time spent in the camera obscura, the image becomes clearer and the familiar is re-established ultimately resulting in a relocation of the observer’s awareness of place.

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City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

City of Dreams – Ibis Hotel sunrise over Sydney

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The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

The Travelodge camera obscura 2008

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Some background on the set-up for the Travelodge camera obscura:

Simple black garbage bags and some black electrical tape from the local 711 store. An aperture cut from a ‘found’ piece of aluminium – size around 8mm … we don’t use sophisticated glass lenses – these are direct light projections. A digital camera bares witness to our experience by capturing the image of the camera obscura projection.

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Setting up the room

Blacking out the room

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We were watching TV ...

We were watching TV …

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OUR MOST RECENT CAMERA OBSCURA: ORPHEUS ISLAND BEACH TENT

(A collaborative event with John de Rooy, Spyder Displays and the Orpheus Is Photo Workshop)

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

Our Spyder Camera Obscura

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

A DUO View of the scene and the Camera Obscura image

TO VIEW OTHER CAMERA OBSCURA WORK BY COOPER AND SPOWART SEE THE LINKS

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Our Website:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/RoomCameraObscura-Project.html

Our car converted into a camera obscura and driven across Australia:

http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/4_PROJECTS/CarCamera-Project.html

Two New Zealand Camera Obscuras in the the Queenstown Rydges Hotel:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/two-new-zealand-camera-obscuras/

A public Camera Obscura performance and live video:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/camera-obscura-pinhole-event-foto-frenzy-a-report/

YouTube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyA5QP-mX-E

A camera obscura at the Queenstown Centre fro Creative Photography:

https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/camera-obscura-qccp/

A World Pinhole Day Camera Obscura at Mt Barney:

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

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Closing off the hole

Closing off the hole in the Travelodge Hotel camera obscura

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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for 16 Years of Camera Obscuras Project

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Map of activities, #PhotoBookDay 2013

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Toowoomba joined the world on PhotoBook Day – Here is the report…

World Photobook Day

After collecting the activities that were organized, this is the resulting map of activities of World PhotoBook Day 2013.

PBD_map2013

In the following posts we will continue with some of the stories behind all theses activities. So links will change as long as new stories come up.

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

October 23, 2013 at 8:17 am

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A BOOK ABOUT DEATH: Now in Australia

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Book-about-death-72

Doug’s contribution to A Book About Death

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A new exhibition at the Tweed River Art Gallery presents an exhibition of mail art contributed by artists from all over the world which that deals with the topic of death. Entitled, A Book About Death (ABAD), this exhibition is the most recent iteration of the concept that began in 1963 by Mail Art ‘father’ Ray Johnson – The difference on this occasion being that most of the artists represented in the show are Australian. The coordination and curation of this ABAD exhibition has been overseen by Julie Barrett and Heather Matthew.

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The following background information comes from the ABAD website:

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The Australian exhibition is is the 27th exhibition of A Book About Death. Paris based artist Matthew Rose instigated the first A Book About Death exhibition in 2009 in New York. Five hundred artists submitted five hundred copies of their artwork to the exhibition in the Emily Harvey Gallery. On the opening night people came with plastic bags and collected the free artworks and so were able to create their own (unbound) book about death. Many people then went on to exhibit their collections at other galleries and so the exhibition grew into an international phenomena with artists curating their own exhibitions and calling for new artworks to be created for the new exhibitions. Matthew Rose created the exhibition as a tribute to the ‘father’ of mail art Ray Johnson.
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Here’s what Mark Bloch from New York who knew Ray Johnson wrote:
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First and foremost, the American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) the founder of the New York Correspondence School deserves all the credit for creating the concept of A Book About Death because he was really onto something when he came up with the concept in 1963. Between March of that year and February 1965, he sent out 13 pages or so of something he called A Book About Death. In framing one piece of a paper as one page of a conceptual book, he anticipated many literary developments of the four decades that have followed. Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death connects to hypertext, cyberpunk, the internet, as well as devices like the Kindle, a device that is an accumulator of electrons that shows its user pictures on a screen of what can be thought of as a book. But the Kindle, one of the possible signposts of what the future of reading will be like, cannot show us an entire book. It can only show us one page at a time.
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Vicky's contribution to the ABAD exhibition

Vicky’s contribution to the ABAD exhibition

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Vicky’s statement about the work:

Through the microscope I saw the death of a leaf as a metaphor for the forest.

In this leaf I could see

The searing flames of a bush fire,

The decay and recycling of its flesh and bones,

The crystallization of time

A fossil

The past and the future

The story of the forest

In the death of a leaf . . .

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AN EVENT ASSOCIATED WITH THE EXHIBITION

Death Cafe Event

Death Cafe Event

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://abadaustralia.blogspot.com.au/
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FOR AN ABC INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER MATTHEW: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2013/10/17/3870941.htm.
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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart….ABAD Website and ‘About Us’ text Copyright ABAD Australia.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.euThe Cooper+Spowart text and work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY: Toowoomba Oct 14, 2013

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WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY – CELEBRATED IN AUSTRALIA

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lets_celebrate_photobook_cyan_eng

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The city of Toowoomba in Queensland Australia celebrated World Photobook Day with a group of around thirty attending a Photo Book Club meeting. The event was held at TheGRID: Hybrid Arts Collective. The participants were from a wide range of photographically interested people: some from the local TAFE college, The Toowoomba Photographic Society, professional photographers, artists and academics. Each brought with them a favourite photobook to share and talk over with others. There were some precious books, some funky contemporary publications, and some of the more traditional coffee table tomes.

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Toowoomba Celebrates World Photobook Day

Toowoomba Celebrates World Photobook Day

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Event coordinator Doug Spowart welcomed the group and gave some background on the history of the photobook and the amazing place that Anna Atkins has within that history. On hand was the Badger and Parr The Photobook: A History Vol1 opened to the page of the Atkins Algae of the British Isles. Doug announced that an acquaintance of he and Victoria Cooper’s – Gael Phillips, was a distant relative of Anna Atkins and that whilst be unable to attend she has provided a commentary on the times, life and family.  Gaels words are as follows…

… I thought I might give you a few details of the family of Anna Atkins, nee Children, which may help to explain the setting in which she produced the world’s first photographic book. My cousins, Elizabeth Parkes and Jean Doggett, with input from other family members, have published an account of our family which includes chapters on the Children family. At their family home, “Ferox Hall”, in Tonbridge, Kent, John George Children, Anna’s father and George Children, her grandfather, had built the largest electric battery the world has ever seen at their private laboratory. They were collaborating with Sir Humphry Davy on electrical experiments. It was because of her family’s experience with battery technology and electrochemistry, and almost certainly with the help of her father, that Anna would have had access to sufficient ferric ammonium citrate to produce cyanotypes.  Her publication of “Photographs of British Algae” first appeared in October 1843 – British Algae – Cyanotype Impressions. Fox Talbot, a friend of the family, and from whom Anna had obtained her first camera, published “Pencil of Nature” between 1844 and 1846, in several parts. In 1979 Professor Larry Schaaf brought the attention of the world to the fact that the author of the world’s first photo book, AA, was Anna Atkins.

Anna Atkins, nee Children, was born in 1799. Her mother, Hester Anna Children, nee Holwell, was the grand-daughter of Governor Hollwell, one of the survivors of the Black Hole of Calcutta in 1756. Hester never recovered from the birth of Anna and died in 1800.

Anna also wrote a biography of her father, partly concealing her authorship under the initials, “AA”, as she did with her “Photographs of British Algae”.

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Anna Atkins 1861

Anna Atkins 1861 [Source Wikipedia}

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Anna and her husband, John Pelly Atkins, had no children of their own. Anna died in 1871 and her husband a year later. Their home, “Halstead Place”‘ has since been demolished.

A photogram of Algae, made by Anna Atkins as part of her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

A photogram of Algae, made by Anna Atkins as part of her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.nypl.org.

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Naturally my favourite photo book (or books, because the Cyanotypes of British Algae by AA run to three volumes) – “Photographs of British Algae – Cyanotype Impressions” by Anna Atkins, my distant cousin. In 1992 I had the great privilege to view copies of the volumes at the Library of the Royal Society in London. The edition ran from between 10 to 12 copies and a few of the plates from one of the copies are held in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

I wish you all well for this celebration of the world’s first photo book by Anna Atkins.

Doug thanked Gael for her insight into the lady whose premier photographic pursuit we celebrate today.

Guests were then invited to continue their looking and talking about books, photography and other worthy matters. It was a remarkable event and one which will no doubt repeated in the future –– but it will be sooner than the next time we gather, once again, to celebrate WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY.

..A PHOTOBOOK CLUB EVENT

hotoBookClub-Logo

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HERE SOME IMAGES OF ATTENDEES AND BOOKS …   A detailed list of books presented for viewing and other contributions submitted online will be added to this post in the near future.

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Report and photographs: ©2013 Doug Spowart.  Anna Atkins’ story © Gael Phillips. Images of Anna Atkins sourced from Wikipedia and acknowledged appropriately.

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FACING FACES: Judging the photographic portrait

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Catalogue_PIC

OCA Catalogue Cover

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Olive Cotton Award Floortalk, Tweed River Art Gallery

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On September 15 about 30 people attended a floortalk in the exhibition space of the 2013 Olive Cotton Photography Award (OCA). In my preparation I reflected on the demands of a floortalk. Over the years I have given quite a few floortalks about my own as well as the work of others, including one at a previous Olive Cotton Award. I have also attended presentations by others. In this years OCA award I wanted to create an inclusive space for the audience. Rather than taking centre stage, I wanted to empower the attendees in a kind of role reversal­–to bring to the discussion their approaches to looking at, and responding to, the photographic portrait.

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Olive Cotton Award installation at Tweed River Art Gallery

 

I introduced a concept for viewing and interpreting photographs that I call ‘positioning’. It relates to the interaction that takes place when looking at a photograph – particularly a portrait. It is what reaches into our emotions lived experience and solicits our response. The premise of this floortalk format draws upon the notion that everyone is a judge and is also informed by Roland Barthes’ concept of the ‘death of the author’. I am interested in how the viewer’s interpretation relates to their own life’s experience rather than a direct connection with the author’s intent for the communication. After all, I as the floortalk presenter, can only offer an opinion based on my personal experience and knowledge.  

What follows is a conversational précis of the floortalk and the concepts covered relating to portrait photography and the OCA. After a formal introduction by Tweed River Art Gallery’s Public Programs Curator and Coordinator of the Award Anouk Beck, I addressed the group.

 

Doug Spowart presenting the floortalk

Doug Spowart presenting the floortalk

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We stand this morning in a gallery exhibition dedicated to the most photographed subject of all – the human face! The floor talk today will explore the idea of the photographic portrait and how we reflect on the success of this visual communication.

There is an old saying that you can tell a great portrait because the eyes follow you around the room – Well any portrait, even a painting, where the subject is represented looking toward the photographer’s/artist’s viewpoint will capture the subject in a way that will enable this ‘phenomenon’ to be observed. So this method for assessing a portrait will not successfully operate here.

Another way of knowing what great portraits look like is to ask an expert, whomever they may be, to make a decision. Awards such as the Olive Cotton Award use this principle and over the years an impressive list of pre-eminent photographers and/or critics and commentators on photography have been commissioned for the task. I must acknowledge the judge for this year’s award – Helen Ennis. I cannot think of anyone who would be as knowledgeable of the ideas, thoughts and working methods of Olive Cotton than Helen Ennis. In her connection with Olive Cotton, Ennis has written several books and catalogues, selected works and curated exhibitions and is in the process of writing Cotton’s biography. Ennis has provided for us all a greater understanding of Cotton’s work and prominent position within the history of Australian photography.

Now, let us think about portraiture and the act, as we find ourselves today, looking at and evaluating portraits. It is interesting to note that although the portrait is at the top of the list of photographic subjects, we can see in this award there is no standard approach. As we look around this gallery space today no two portraits look the same – I’m not referring to the diversity of subject’s portrayed, but rather the way the photographer has created and presented the subject to us. The photographs range from snapshots of unplanned spontaneous moments to documentary reportage and illustrative magazine styled images, and then to the overtly staged theatrical tableaux. Some images are derivative – that is that the approach to the image replicates time honoured, and sometimes perhaps over used or common, techniques, styles or treatments. Other images may represent subject and styles in ways that are vibrant and fresh.

When a portrait is made the photographer makes personal decisions relating to equipment selected, technique, style, lighting, posing, gesture and subject expression. They make a portrait that satisfies their personal urge to tell a story. This story is usually firmly related to the subject; although it can be a theme the photographer is investigating or be based on something from the photographer’s own life experience. The photographer may want or even demand that viewers take from the work a particular and specific meaning. The artist’s statement accompanying exhibited works can support and signpost and influence the readings that a photographer may want to pass on.

However, I would suggest to you, that once the image leaves the photographer and is presented publically a new paradigm exists. Writer and commentator on photography Roland Barthes wrote ‘… the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.’ (Barthes 1977:148). In this instance I propose that the photographer is the author – the reader is the viewer. When looking at photographs the viewer connects their life experience to what the work presents, and the narrative or meaning that emerges can no longer be the photographers alone – it is a hybrid born by the activation of the viewer.

We are all judges in a way and each of us has a unique experience of the world that directs and supports our response to images that we view. We will no doubt encounter portraits here today that are universally powerful and profound yet there will be other images that may reach individuals amongst us in the most direct and personal ways. What this means is that each of us is a kind of judge, and that our individual responses may be just as profound as those experienced by Helen Ennis five or so weeks ago.

Today then, I invite you all to be the judge and what we will be doing is engaging with selected works from the exhibition to discuss and review – and I will be asking you to contribute to the conversation. To assist you with this I’d like to pass on the concept that may help us with this process – it’s essentially about what I will call ‘positioning’. Your response to a portrait photograph, or perhaps in another context any photograph or work of art, is informed by your personal background as we have already discussed.  Your ‘position’ can be informed by the synergies of your life experiences that may include; physical, ideological, religious, gender, specific demographic, life experience of birth, death, love, illness, war or personal achievement or tragedy. So when we talk about a portrait please consider your position…

[What followed in the floortalk was a conversation by the participants moderated through my involvement. The audience contributed some interesting responses and ideas about portraits that included; Tamara Dean’s ‘Brothers’ 2013, Russell Shakespeare’s ‘Bob Katter’ MP 2011, Tina Fiveash’s ‘Twin Spirits’ 2013, Imogen Hall’s ‘Barry Jones and the ancestor’ 2012. At times there were powerful and emotional connections made by particular participants which were then shared through this floortalk conversational strategy.

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Brothers

Tamara Dean’s Brothers

Participants discussing their position and response to a portrait

Participants discussing their position and response to a portrait

Russell Shakespeare's Bob Katter MP

Russell Shakespeare’s Bob Katter MP

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I was asked to give my position on the winning photograph – Trent Parke’s ‘Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner’ 2013. Many attendees did not –or– could not find a ‘position’, that would enable them to understand the reason behind its selection. I spoke from my position informed by my background in the art and professional practice of photography and many years dedicated to the education and critique of this medium – I knew from comments made by the judge on announcing the award that she found Parke’s image something that she at first didn’t standout as so many images do – but she kept coming back to it. My position on the image was as follows…]

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Trent-Parke's

Trent Parke’s Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner

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On first encountering Parke’s image it does not give us much – it initially appears as a field of greatly magnified monochrome film grain, which hides the delicate structure of a female face. A closer view reveals less, and interestingly, the further away you move the ‘sharper’ the image. Parke’s portrait demands more of the viewer to find meaning – it challenges, it questions, it’s not a specific person, unlike every other portrait in this award, but more the generic form. For me it also comments about the romance of film and ‘humanness’ in the digital age. At the beginning of this floortalk I suggested that much of portraiture can be derivative – but this image has no provenance in contemporary portraiture – it stands alone, perhaps signalling that there is room for new and exciting representations of the human visage yet to come…

[The floortalk concluded and attendees continued viewing other portraits in the show from their newfound critical ‘position’. The outcomes and exchanges resulting from my floortalk strategy was, for me, personally enlightening and rewarding. A number of participants came up after the talk to say how much they had enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to discuss work and have their ideas, opinions and experiences shared in that way.

From their participation and responses today one could perhaps say that the author is dead – and many readers have been born …]

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Dr Doug Spowart    3 October 2013

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A PDF catalogue of the Olive Cotton Award is available here  2013 OCA catalogue for web_screen

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Barthes, R. (1977). Image Music Text. London, Fontana Press.


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Photographs of the floortalk © 2013 Victoria Cooper.  All other images are the copyright of the photographer.

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NOCTURNE GRAFTON PROJECT: Fieldwork Concludes

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Promotional Card

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We have just finished our artists-in-residence at the Grafton Regional Gallery. It was an amazing month and a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community and create art!

Artists in Residency programmes are an important opportunity to break out of the home/studio/teaching role routine to exchange or explore new ideas in a totally different environment.  We consider our time in these residencies as essential to our practice; it transforms how we work and brings fresh ideas into our work. Integral to our projects is the immersion in each place and connecting with community and local narratives of place. Our time in Grafton was a remarkable: the community, its everyday stories and the imposing presence of the Clarence River all contributed inspiration for our creative work.

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Doug photographing under the Pound Street viaduct

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Our project was to create images of local places that to us visually evoked a narrative.  The places were selected from our exploration of the town, researching local knowledge, and conversations with people we met.  We sought places that were best illuminated by nocturnal light (late afternoon and early evening light).  This light only lasts around 30 to 60 minutes, but its transformation of everyday places can be powerfully evocative. Our work in this time is intense and our awareness of the visual qualities of different spaces is deepened. The history and lived experience embedded in each place seems to ‘speak’ and we ‘listen’.

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A comparison - Nocturne and daylight of the same subject

A comparison – Nocturne and daylight of the same subject

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Facebook page

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After each shoot we return to our residence to reflect, select and optimize our visual reconnaissance of nocturnal Grafton to then upload and ‘share’ online through Facebook and a blog. Through this sharing of our work we connected with a community and their stories in each place. Personal and historical accounts of these places brought our images to life. For us, this is where the art that exists – between our initial inspiration and local lived experiences.

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The LINK Shoppingworld gallery

The LINK Shoppingworld gallery

A nocturne shoot-out with the Grafton Camera Club

A nocturne shoot-out with the Grafton Camera Club

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To extend the exchange that was integral to our project we also were involved in artists’ talks for schools, and other visitors to the Grafton Regional Gallery. We set up and attended two small displays of our ongoing work: one in the gallery and another in a vacant shop at the LINK arcade in the main shopping precinct. Doug and I had a very dear friend, Charlie Snook, who was a strong supporter and participant of the local camera club. So it was important for us to be able to connect with this enthusiastic group of photographers. We gave an evening talk, shared two of our nocturne shoots as photographic outings and judged their current assignment work. It was privilege to be invited to their 50th anniversary dinner held on the last weekend of our residency and a great way to finish our time in Grafton.

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The C.R.A.P.y artist book team

The C.R.A.P.y artist book team

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We organized an activity to involve local and regional artists as well as a Brisbane arts professional in a collaborative artists’ book project. Under the auspices of the Centre for Regional Arts Practice, an organization created and coodinated by us, we held an activity over the weekend of September 21and 22. This collaborative event produced 60 copies of the C.R.A.P. Artist’s Survey Number 15, the theme of this survey was ‘the regional arts worker as a nomad’. Copies were shared amongst the participants while some were then set aside for donation to major collections including: The Grafton Regional Gallery and the State Library of Queensland.

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The Daily Examiner newspaper coverage

The Daily Examiner newspaper coverage

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We were excited by the considerable support of and interest in our project from Grafton’s newspaper, The Daily Examiner, publishing separate stories, a front-page photograph and a weekend feature.  Support also came from Senator Ursula Stephens shared the page and added ‘Grafton is the great Jacaranda city on the NSW north coast and the Nocturne Project is a wonderful example of celebrating local landmarks and building community identity. Love it!’ – was also an unexpected acknowledgement of our project. We visited the Grafton Historical Society and found a treasure of knowledge and information together with a willingness to assist in our research.

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The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley's Hotel balcony

The Roundabout Clocktower from Weiley’s Hotel balcony

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Some information on the Facebook component of the project: www.facebook.com/nocturnegrafton

During the month of September the project had 410 page ‘Likes’ and achieved a total viral reach of around 65,000 people. 65% of the Nocturne Grafton fan base were women (the Facebook average is 46%). The main engaged age group were women 25-34 years @ 17% of the total (the FB Average is 12%). The most popular post was the Clocktower roundabout from Weiley’s Balcony, which attracted 4,500 views and 274 likes, 37 comments and 44 shares (some of the reach was boosted). Interpretation of Facebook analytics is an interesting task and one that we will be reviewing over the next few weeks.  We will maintain the Facebook page as a place for continued conversation.

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Jude McBean, Vicky, Cher Breeze & Doug

Jude McBean, Vicky, Cher Breeze & Doug

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At all times during our residency an energetic and professional team, Jude McBean GRG Director, Cher Breeze, Avron Thompson and many dedicated volunteers at the Grafton Art Gallery provided valuable assistance, advice and stories. With the vision and support of the Gallery the residency was for us a transforming experience and our time at Grafton Art Gallery was highly productive.

And a BIG thank you to all our Facebook Friends who supported the project by their ‘Likes’, ‘Comments’ and ‘Shares’.

The final visual outcome for the project will be in the form of the continued online presence, artists/photo books and exhibition of image work. These artworks will reflect on the collaboration between our photographs, the social media project and the Grafton community.

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Going home on the last night of the residency…

 

Some comments from our Facebook friends at the conclusion of the project:

Peter Hunter OAM, ARPS, AFIAP: Victoria and Doug. I am really impressed with your photographs of Grafton at dusk. Your very impressive skill at taking a very ordinary subject and creating a great photo from it by using super composition, creative evening light and long exposure has resulted in a wonderful collection. I hope that they will be archived for posterity.

Marlene Szepsy: I have really enjoyed your way of sharing and bringing art to the community. A great artists in residence project. Thank you.

Louise Kirby: You have been wonderful AIR’s and I am so glad you came and shared your beautiful photography, your skills and your enthusiasm …

Adam Hourigan: pleasure meeting you guys. The photos make Facebook a much brighter place

Vanessa Collins: thanks for the way you have shown our beautiful town, can’t wait for the exhibition and the book

Stephanie Haines: Thank you for the beautiful photos… they made us all look at our town in a new way.

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© 2013 Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart for The Nocturne Grafton Project

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

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