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Archive for May 2014

HeadOn–AddOn: Cooper+Spowart invited to participate

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This year we were invited to participate in the 2014 HeadOnAddOn event: Here are the details behind the event from the HeadOn Website…






Victoria COOPER's Detail from Home 2011–2014

Victoria COOPER’s – Detail from Home 2011–2014


Doug SPOWART's – 'Half-light'

Doug SPOWART’s – Half-light


Part of the 2014 programme of:
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© 2014 Cooper+Spowart




Written by Cooper+Spowart

May 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm


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The book 'Around the world in 14 days'

The book Around the world in 14 days


Recently I was asked to write an introduction for a limited edition book to compliment an exhibition of landscape photography entitled, Around the World in 14 Days: how the landscape unites us. The project featured seven contemporary Australian and international photographers, and was coordinated by Dawne Fahey of the FIER Institute with Sandy Edwards contributing to the image selection. The assembled body of work presented insights into how photographers ‘read the landscape, both visually and psychologically through their images.’


The photographs, created in Australia, Asia, New Zealand, USA and Colombia are intended to inspire viewers to consider how ‘elements effecting the landscape unite us, regardless of our differences or the distances that occur between us.’ Through the photographs there is also an intention that the ‘poetic fragments presented by the work will connect with the viewer’s own memories, experience, or sense of place.’

The exhibiting photographers are: Ann Vardanega (Australia), April Ward (Australia), Beatriz Vargas (Colombia), Gavin Brown (Australia), Michael Knapstein (USA), Robyn Hills (Australia) and Pauline Neilson (New Zealand) and the exhibition and book are on show at Pine Street Gallery, 64 Pine Street, Chippendale, Sydney until May 31, 2014.

See more at: http://www.pinestreet.com.au and http://fier.photium.com/around-the-world-in-14 – sthash.QPto0nz4.dpuf

The exhibition and book launch took place on May 20, 2014 at the gallery.

My essay discusses issues that relate to the premise of the exhibition as well as some personal observations of the idea of the photographer in the landscape. The essay is presented here and at the end of the post I have included a selection of images and installation photographs of the exhibition.



All landscape photographs are history


It is vain to dream of a wildness

distant from ourselves. There is none such.

In the bog of our brains and bowels, the

primitive vigor of Nature is in us, that inspires

that dream.


Henry David Thoreau, journal, August 30, 1856 [i]


Around sunset, Northern Territory time, a gathering of photographers will assemble in the central Australian desert and witness the now iconic sunset at Uluru. What they encounter will be a lived experience and there can be no doubt that cameras, both with and without telephony capability, will record the moment. Their images will bear metadata of the shutter speed, aperture, camera brand and model, the time, date and perhaps even its geolocation. These images will be cast into the Internet as evidence for friends and family to see – a private experience shared and made transferrable by technology.

What then of the subject of their gaze and activity – the landscape? For this rock in the desert, the next day will be a repeat of this photo ritual, and each day after, it will be repeated again and again. Does Uluru wait for its activation at each sunset and each shutter’s click? This landscape has experienced a few hundred million years of sunsets and its current fame as a photo celebrity, is a mere blip in its history. Every day will be different and thousands of days, well, not much change. However, today’s photograph, even a split second after its capture, is history.

For a number of years I have cultured the belief which was informed by a statement attributed to photographer Minor White: ‘No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.’[ii] My variation is that that landscape reveals itself to the photographer of its choosing. Writer and critic John Berger adds to this discussion by proposing that there is a ‘modern illusion concerning painting … is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what he has received.’[iii] Could it be then that the landscape is the director and commissioner of the image that the painter or the photographer makes, and that the photographer – the right photographer – is merely the vehicle for the landscape’s transformation of itself into an image?

Like portraits that have been made since the beginning of photography, and the documents of human endeavour, commerce, existence and experience – time, or rather the passage of time, has granted then their relegation to past. Each photograph in this book is then a history image. The moment and space depicted wrenched from the continuum of time by whatever forces brought together the photographer and the landscape. A landscape image at that moment of capture is at once the subject photographed and also a time machine. Viewed on its own by its maker the photograph can be a comfortable aide memoir, and operate just as a photo of a loved one or a family wedding would do in its frame on the mantelpiece – the photo exists, and so too the remembrance of subject it represents.

But photographs are more than things; they are experiences. Photographer Ansel Adams attributed special values and meaning to his landscape photographs and sought to represent the landscape as being more than what it was physically. Simon Schama in his book Landscape and Memory cites Adams as commenting that: ‘Half Dome [in Yosemite National Park] is just a piece of rock … There is some deep personal distillation of spirit and concept which moulds these earthy facts into some transcendental emotional and spiritual experience.’[iv] Adams inspired the American nation and created a tradition of environmentalism and black and white photography that continues today.

For Australian wilderness photographers Adams’ ‘emotion and spiritual’ connection with the landscape is salient. In the book Photography in Australia Helen Ennis discusses how photographers of this genre engage with their landscape subjects. She quotes Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis entering a ‘state of grace’ on bushwalks when, ‘days away from “civilization”, he felt what he described as, “a sense of spiritual connection with all around – from widest landscape to the smallest detail”’.[v] Ennis also comments that wilderness photographers use a range of techniques to ‘lift the experiences of viewing the photographs into a realm that goes beyond the human exigencies of normal daily life.’[vi]

In a book such as this, as we turn the pages, what is presented to us is the photographer’s concept or story encoded in visual form. As with Berger this may constitute the next generation of ‘giving and receiving’. They may have made the photograph/s with a specific objective in mind – a narrative angle, the idea of showing something that stirred them that they wanted to share – or – from the earlier discussion, what the subject wanted revealed. But in the space between the giver (the photographer and this book), and the receiver (you, the viewer), another hybrid narrative emerges. The photograph acts as a stimulus on the viewer and an idiosyncratic response is generated. Roland Barthes uses the term ‘detonate’ to describe being in front of a photograph. In Camera Lucida he comments that: ‘The photograph itself is no way animated, … but it animates me: this is what creates every adventure.’[vii]

In photographs we are not so much connected or united with the landscape, but rather the experience of the landscape and the trees, rivers, blades of grass and rocks that are represented in images. In effect we are united by the landscape of photography and the gift that we can share through it. We can then, through photographs enter into a Barthesian adventure. Perhaps these landscape photographs are more than history – they are: an experience shared, an unexpected encounter, an adventure. In your turning the pages – then pausing to view each group of images, to contemplate and consider the communiqué stimulated by them, these photographs become part of your history, your experience, and your adventure as well …


Dr Doug Spowart   April 17, 2014

[i] Schama, S. (1995). Landscape and Memory. London, HarperCollins, epigraph, n.p.
[ii] http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/12041/22-quotes-by-photographer-minor-white/
[iii] Berger, J. (2002). The Shape of a Pocket. London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, p.18.
[iv] Schama, S. (1995). Landscape and Memory. London, HarperCollins, p.9.
[v] Ennis, H. (2007). Exposures: Photography and Australia. London UK, Reaktion Books Ltd, p.68.
[vi] ibid.
[vii] Barthes, R. (1984). Camera Lucida. London, UK, Fontana Paperbacks, p.20.


The exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days' invitation

The exhibition invitation

The exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days' in the Pine Street Gallery

The exhibition in the Pine Street Gallery


A photograph by Pauline Neilsen from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

A photograph by Pauline Neilsen


Four photographs by Michael Knapstein from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

Four photographs by Michael Knapstein


Two photographs by Gavin Brown from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

Two photographs by Gavin Brown


Two photographs by Robyn Hills from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

Four photographs by Robyn Hills


A photograph by Ann Vardanega from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

A photograph by Ann Vardanega


Two photographs by April Ward from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

Two photographs by April Ward


A photograph by Beatriz Vargas from the exhibition 'Around the world in 14 days'

A photograph by Beatriz Vargas


Doug Spowart with Ann Vardanegra, Dawne Fahey and Pauline Neilsen

Doug Spowart with Ann Vardanega, Dawne Fahey and Pauline Neilsen


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The photographers retain all copyright in their photographs. Some texts are derived from exhibition documents. Text and installation photographs © 2014 Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper





Cafe Scientifique: The Secret Life of Water – Vicky Speaks

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Cafe Scientifique invite


Inside the Dogwood Xing presentation space (Bottle Tree forms)

Inside the Dogwood Crossing presentation space (Murilla Room with bottle tree structural forms)


Vicky presents her performance

Vicky discusses and performs her books


Victoria Cooper

I Have Witnessed A Strange River says Cooper invited us to engage with a journey through the depths of water. She guided us through an unfamiliar place inter-twined with our daily lives where we witnessed the relentless cycle of life and death. Deep below the water’s reflecting surface, she showed us that a place primordial and alien yet intrinsic to us all, exists.




BIO: Victoria Cooper is an artist with a PhD in Visual Arts researching the intersections of art and science. This interdisciplinary research is informed and inspired by her previous career in Human and Plant Pathology along with current interest in local and regional issues of land and water. During her 23-year arts career she has also worked across many forms of photographic technology–analogue to digital imaging; site specific documentation of performance; and artists’ books. In a collaborative practice with Dr Doug Spowart, she explores the post technological paradigm of photography as a cultural communication and a site-specific visual medium. This multi-methodological approach is applied in their current Place Project work in many regional communities. Cooper has exhibited in Australia and internationally and her work has been published in the Pinhole Resource Journal, the Le Stenope issue of French Photo Poche series and with Doug was included in the publication LOOK, Contemporary Australian Photography since 1980. Cooper’s artists’ books are held in national and private collections including the rare books and manuscript collections of the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Queensland.



Inside the Dogwood Xing presentation space

Carl – Condamine Alliance speaks


Carl Mitchell

This is a Story About Water Too* The quality and supply of water is one of  most important issues of our time. Water quality scientist Carl Mitchell  from the Condamine Alliance discussed the quality of water in our waterways and the health of our aquatic systems – vital indicators of how well we are doing as a society. The waterways in the Condamine catchment are a precious resource for the communities in the region. They provide many benefits to support the economy, society and environment of the region. Due to extensive development across a number of sectors, the quality of waters in most of the catchment areas is poor. Studies and models predict that without appropriate additional management responses the region will be unable to meet the social and economic needs of the community while maintaining the ecological integrity of the natural systems supporting these needs. Carl discussed the state of the waters and what actions are needed in the future.

BIO: Carl is a water quality scientist, aquatic ecologist and integrated water resource management specialist with a passion for the water and the waterways of the Condamine Catchment in the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin.  Carl strongly believes that the quality of water in our waterways and the health of our aquatic systems is an indicator of how well we are doing as a society. This drives him to strive for clean water for the Condamine and healthy aquatic ecosystems for the Murray Darling headwaters.  Carl’s work in the Condamine has focussed on restoring the iconic Condamine river and Carl has lead the team that won 3 prestigious national awards for the Condamine in 2012-2013. Carl has a history in Natural Resource Management in Queensland having worked for Reef Catchments in Mackay for 11 years as Waterwatch coordinator, Healthy Waterways Coordinator and Water Manager. In the Water Manager role at Reef Catchments Carl spent 2 years coordinating the Paddock to Reef program across the 6 reef regional bodies, before moving to the Condamine in 2011. Carl has been an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in the Philippines, implementing Waterwatch and Landcare programs.


James and Suzon talk about the 'Water Wheel Project'

James and Suzon talk about the ‘Waterwheel Project’


Igneous: James Cunningham and Suzon Fuks

The Igneous team shared its explorations of water as a topic and metaphor. They explained how Waterwheel is an interactive, collaborative platform for sharing media and ideas, performance and presentation. Attendees witnessed how Waterwheel investigates and celebrates this constant yet volatile global resource, fundamental element, environmental issue, political dilemma, universal theme and symbol of life. We were encouraged to explore and discover, share and collaborate, contribute and participate in their project and local activities.

Igneous presented Waterwheel as well as the FLUIDATA project supported by Arts Queensland, and introduced the audience to FLUIDATA workshop that we offered there.

BIOS: Igneous received funding from Brisbane City Council and Arts Queensland towards the development of the platform and it’s incorporation in the Waterwheel Installation Performance and associated residency at the Judith Wright Centre of Performing Arts, Brisbane. Igneous is a partnership between  Cunningham and Fuks who have both given lectures, workshops, master-classes and labs in Australia, USA, Europe, India and Indonesia, in tertiary institutions, cultural venues and community contexts.

James Cunningham is a performance, movement and video artist, and the co-Artistic Director, along with Suzon Fuks, of Igneous Inc., (www.igneous.org.au) a Brisbane-based multimedia and performance company established in 1997 that has presented solo and ensemble stage shows, performance-installations, video-dance works and networked/online performances in Australia, Europe (Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland), UK, Canada and India.

Suzon Fuks is an intermedia artist, choreographer and director, exploring the integration and interaction of the body and moving image through performance, screen, installation and online work (http://suzonfuks.net). During an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship (2009-12), she initiated and co-founded Waterwheel, following which she has been a Copeland Fellow and an Associate Researcher at the Five Colleges in Massachusetts, continuing to focus her research on water and gender issues, and networked performance, as well as coordinating activities on Waterwheel.

* The Secret Life of Water Book Title by Masaru Emoto

* This is a Story About Water Too. Poem Title by Jayne Fenton Keane


Texts sourced from Dogwood Crossing material.    Photos: Doug Spowart ©2014





WORLD PINHOLE DAY, 2014: Our Contribution

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Round the [w]hole world on the 27th of April  pinholers were out having fun – Making their images for the 2014 WPD. We’ve used our Olympus camera again and this time made duo self-portraits. This is the 10th year we have made pinhole images to support the WPD project!


Olympus Pen with hand pierced aluminum foil hole, Auto exposure mode, ISO 1600.


VICKY’s Submission:


"Olympus Pen with hand pierced aluminum foil hole, Auto exposure mode, ISO 1600."

Victoria+Doug RayPortrait


DOUG’s Submission:


"A duo portrait - camera shadow to block the sun from the eyes --- A bit of self-portrait fun..."

“A duo portrait – camera shadow to block the sun from the eyes — A bit of self-portrait fun…”


Vist the WPD Site for other contributors:  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2014/

Our Past WPD images:


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

2012   http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2012/index.php?id=1937&searchStr=spowart

2011    http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2011/index.php?id=924

HERE IS THE LINK to the 2011 pinhole video   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk4vnbzTqOU

2010   http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2010/index.php?id=2464&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2006  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2006/index.php?id=1636&Country=Australia&searchStr=cooper

2004 Vicky  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2004/index.php?id=1553&Country=Australia&searchStr=cooper

2004 Doug  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2004/index.php?id=1552&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2003  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2003/index.php?id=615&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart

2002  http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2002/index.php?id=826&Country=Australia&searchStr=spowart



.Portraits  ©2014 Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper
.Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu
My photographs and words are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/..
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