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BRITISH LIBRARY Acquires our cyanotype artists’ book

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We are excited to announce that the British Library has recently acquired our artowrk Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788.

In 2010 we wanted to make a work to comment and reflect on Australia Day and some of our feelings about the origins of the date – the implications of that event and the repercussions that we live with and navigate today. Through a scorchingly hot day in Toowoomba we worked with cyanotype solutions and selected objects – some from our home and others sourced from the food scraps from a local seafood smorgasbord restaurant on the day.

The work that we did that day emerged as the collaborative artists’ book, a broadsheet we titled, Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788.

We acknowledge the support in the negotiations with the British Library by our agent Helen Cole.

 

A statement about the artwork

Across Australia over the January 26th long weekend, people prepare, cook and consume food to mark this day in history.

For us, this work is our response to, and in recognition of, the ‘turning of the page’ in Australian history that this date represents. One day, January 25th 1788, Aboriginal people feasted on a diverse banquet of bush tucker as they had for thousands of years. The next day, the country was transformed by a new paradigm represented in this work by the table setting of the First Fleet.

Australia Day, for us, is an important time to acknowledge the First Peoples’ perspective and their knowing of land, culture and history and how it should be recognised as underpinning the diversity and identity of contemporary Australia. We, as descendants of European people, are seeking to understand and know more about our place within the longer history of this land.

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View 1: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The 25th of January side of the broadsheet is viewed and contemplated.

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View 2: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The broadsheet is then turned over to view the 26th of January side.

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View 3: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

Finally the broadsheet is held up to the light – the complex interrelationship between the two visual references to be seen and considered.

 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A unique state artists’ book broadsheet

TITLE: Australian Banquet January 25/26, 1788

MEDIA: Double-sided cyanotype image in rice paper

DIMENSIONS: 37.6 x 77cm

PLACE & DATE MADE: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, 2010

EDITION: 7 unique state variants

 

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE BOOK’S HISTORY

 

 

COLLECTIONS, EXHIBITIONS & AWARDS:

2020 COLLECTION: British Library

2015 EXHIBITED: Books by Artists – The Webb Gallery as part of the Artists Book Brisbane Event, Conference at the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane

2014 EXHIBITED: Artist’s Books (reprised) [artists’ books 1978-2014] – George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

2014 EXHIBITED: Alternative Imaging  – Curated by Dawne Fahey at Two Doors Gallery, The Rocks, Sydney

2011: COLLECTION: Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland

2011 SHORTLISTED: Southern Cross University Artists’ Book Award, Lismore. Judge: Ross Woodrow

2011 EXHIBITED: BLUE – Arts Council Toowoomba members exhibition, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

2010 AWARD WINNER: Martin Hanson Awards, Gladstone Regional Art Gallery – Works on Paper

2010 EXHIBITED: Art BoundRed Gallery, Glebe, Sydney

2010 FINALIST: Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award – Gold Coast City Gallery. Judge: Judy Annear

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Text and © Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper

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LOOKING AT PHOTOs IN THE GALLERY: a talk by Doug Spowart

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Doug Spowart in The Museum Project exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery .…..PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

I’ve a lifetime of connection with art galleries from exhibitor to director and curator to reviewer. I’ve often pondered on how the gallery space connects with those who visit it and what insights they may take-away from that interaction.

Viewing an exhibition can be a very superficial activity or it can be one that can create the opportunity for a meaningful and personal experience.

I have often been interested in observing people in the gallery space and wondered whether they were: (1) an interested and attentive participant, (2) using the space for social interaction – with friends/partners/children, (3) there as a flâneur to be seen in the gallery or possibly (4) a person accompanying 1, 2 or 3.

Floor talks are a necessary part of the educative process carried out in an art gallery. It can transform the way art is introduced to a new audience and enlighten those wanting to know more.

 

At the end of last year I was invited to present a floor talk about an exhibition of photography at the Lismore Regional Gallery in northern NSW. The talk was to coincide with the gallery’s showing of The Museum Project a collection of American photography work from the 1970-2010. The project represents a selection of works from 7 photographers that cover a diverse range of approaches to photography. The photographers, and genre of their works are:

 

The Museum Project at the Lismore Regional Gallery

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I considered the invitation and proposed that the talk would be based upon the idea of ‘Looking at photos in the gallery’. Rather than a direct translation of curator’s didactics I decided that I would use my gallery and photography experiences to suggest a number of steps and questions for the visitor in their engagement in the gallery space so they may derive more from the experience. I also acknowledged that attendees would be interested in a commentary about interesting aspects of the works including the conceptual and technical approaches taken by the photographers. The works presented an excellent opportunity to also talk about different approaches to photography as a visual art form.

In my preparation for the talk I visited the gallery and made notes on the works as well as carried out online research about the photographer’s backgrounds, manifestos and techniques.

I thought further about the proposition of looking at photographs in the gallery and prepared a script for the talk. To make the talk more interactive and personal, I decided to hand make a little booklet for each attendee to refer to during the talk and as take-home information source. In the 2015 Artists’ Book Brisbane Event, I did a similar process where I made a booklet of my talk for each of the 60 attendees of the conference and rather than an electronic presentation, I performed the book …

The gallery staff member assisting me for the day, Claudie Frock, had printed up 25 A3 sheets of my 8-page fold booklet the evening before so that Joanna Kambourian, Vicky and I could make up the books.

 

The Looking at Photos in the Gallery booklet

The Looking at Photos in the Gallery booklet

 

Overnight before the talk Lismore, and South-East Queensland and North-East New South Wales were drenched with flash-flooding rains so I was pleasantly surprised in the morning when 25 people came along to the talk. There was also a small group of deaf people attending the talk and I was supported in my presentation by AUSLAN interpreter Bronwyn. After the acknowledgement of country and an introduction by Claudie we began the talk.

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Participant involvement is a necessary part of my presentation style and the question/answer format gave ample opportunities for attendees to interact in the talk. One of the gallery’s curators that attended, Fiona, added special insights about gallery installation, copyright and image conservation. The booklet process worked well and we managed to cover a diverse range of topics within the 1-hour time allotted.

 

You can download a PDF of the little A5 booklet LRG-Booklet

 

Vicky and I stayed on after the talk to connect with attendees who wanted to chat further and also to re-connect with two local photographers Jacklyn Wagner and Peter Derrett OAM who were associated with workshops that we had presented in Lismore at the Gasworks Art Centre and the Southern Cross University in the early 1990s. They presented us with a copy of the catalogue for a documentary project called Heart & Soul that featured people from around the region.

On leaving the gallery the rain had cleared to a sunny day…

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Vicky + Doug with the catalogue for the Heart&Soul exhibition by Jacklyn and Peter PHOTO: Peter Derret

Vicky + Doug with the catalogue for the Heart&Soul exhibition by Jacklyn and Peter PHOTO: Peter Derrett OAM

 

Doug with Jacklyn Wagner + Peter Derrett PHOTO: Dr Ros Derrett OAM

 

 

 

Please note the Booklet and the lecture are a work in progress to be added to in future versions – and it’s ©2020 Doug Spowart.

 

 

VICTORIA COOPER: Scroll works 1998-2003

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Victoria Cooper: Portrait

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Victoria Cooper talks about her early montage works in the form of 10 scrolls made in the period 1998-2003

The text below begins with a discussion about the first five scrolls, three from Mt Buffalo and two of Phillip Island clouds. This is the first public viewing of these early scroll works.

Following this is a short statement about the next five scrolls, The Five Stories of the Gorge. There is a separate blog post about these scrolls that presents more details and exhibition history along with an image of each scroll.  HERE

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For those who can see, existence takes place in an unfurling scroll of pictures captured by sight enhanced or tempered by other senses . . . Building up a language made of pictures translated into words and words translated into pictures, through which we try to grasp and understand our very existence. (Manguel, 2001, p.7)

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Montage and digital narratives

Timothy Druckrey (1994) discusses the montage early in digital era: One of the central considerations in the emergence of electronic montage is the redefinition of narrative and the single image is not sufficient to serve as a record of an event but, rather, that events are themselves complex configurations of experience, intention, and interpretation. Nearly 30 years of the digital evolution, the montage and the collage in all its forms both traditional and analogue continues to shape perception and narrative of the human condition.

 

About my digital montage scroll works

My first major digital body of work in the late 1990’s was a series constructed visual narratives from photo-documentation in sites significant in my development as an environmental visual poet. In the digital medium, I then cut and blended my collected data/ resource of photographic elements into the multiple perspectives that visually tell my story through the form of rice paper scrolls. The sites were Mt Buffalo, coastal Victoria, and a small area of original forest near Toowoomba.

When I first encountered the landscape at Mount Buffalo, I was filled with a sense of awe. The most significant memories that remain with me are of the journeys from the valley to the summit. Over the years I have undertaken many walks that meander through or climb impressive granite landforms and rich stands of native flora. The Buffalo Scrolls were constructed from many individual elements of the analogue photographic material gathered on site and woven together in the computer later. Although initially informed by the tradition of Chinese and Japanese scroll making, I could not conform to the strict rituals of Asian art school but rather was guided in the production of these works by material thinking and the reflective/reflexive response to memory and corporeal experience.

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, Waterfall,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes,
Image: 107×27.5 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm.

 

The digital environment provided me with a psychological space in which images could be combined, manipulated and layered in the shaping of my story. I utilised image manipulation software to ‘grow’ and distort the landscape. Through this process I found that I was directed to imaginative places beyond any original intent or pre-visualization. Although the work originates in my direct recordings of place, the fluidity of digital space allowed for experimentation and new work to transform and evolve any fixed idea I may have had. So in creating The Waterfall scroll, a large boulder became a precipitous mountain to emphasis the terrain encountered. The trail up to the waterfalls was a seemingly endless rock-formed staircase that proved to be a challenging path.

 

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Cathedral,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×27.5 cm,
Scroll: 250×30 cm. Collection of the artist.

 

The Cathedral scroll journey across a watery marsh dotted with fragile alpine daisies is at times a precarious rock hop. Taking care not to step onto the vegetation beneath. In another of the Buffalo scrolls the ominous granite corridor of The Pinnacle defines the way through expanses of rock to the summit of the mountain in the distance.

 

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Pinnacle, inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107x27.5 cm, Scroll: 250x30 cm. Collection of the artist.

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Pinnacle, inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×27.5 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm. Collection of the artist.

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Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Phillip Island Storm Cloud, left and right views,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×24 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm.
Collection of the artist.

 

My work with digital scrolls continued with the production of the diptych, Phillip Island Storm Cloud. These two images relate to the sense of anticipation felt when observing an approaching storm.

At Mount Buffalo and Phillip Island, I wrestled with both a fear of taking risks when encountering new and difficult terrain and a strong curiosity to explore the unknown. The scrolls reflect the memories of conflict and fear together with a sense of wonder I experienced within this sublime landscape and, in some ways more broadly, my life.

 

 

Installation of Victoria Cooper's Five Stories of the Gorge
Installation of Victoria Cooper’s Five Stories of the Gorge

The virtual to the physical

The digital montages can only be seen in the electronic medium through the action of ‘scrolling’. Therefore, as some of my early inspiration came from the Asian form of presenting narratives, I utilised the rice paper scroll transformed the virtual to physical, tactile form. The scrolls are displayed in the vertical format and unravelled from their acrylic container to reveal the entire image. The viewer can enter the scroll at any point as with the initial perusal of a written story and, if engaged fully, can follow the narrative through from beginning to end.

 

The Five Stories from the Gorge Scrolls

Following this initial work I became more interested with the concept of small and intimate spaces found in everyday life. Five stories from the Gorge, presents a more intimate connection with the environment than the Buffalo series. Instead of trekking up precipitous climbs of distant mountain regions, I followed forgotten pathways and looked into the small, enclosed spaces of this gorge environment near where I lived. I made many journeys into the gorge and on each occasion I took time to absorb many sensory impressions as well as creating a digital photographic record.

As with the Buffalo work, I found that the single viewpoint photographic image did not give me the dynamic reading I sought. So again I created a series of montage scroll works synthesised from my collected visual recordings and sense-memory.

The physical environment of the gorge presented me with some complexities when blending the changes of photographic perspective into a seamless passage through the landscape. Central to this work was to attempt, by the use of scale and viewpoint changes, to reconstruct how the eye scans a scene. As the eye of the observer focuses on single viewpoints then moves to another it not possible to take in an entire scene with a single perspective. With this characteristic of visual perception in mind, I set out to recreate the landscape visually from multiple viewpoints. So in this body of work I seamlessly combined disjointed and sometimes perceptively conflicting views to form images that go beyond the static visual document.

During my visits to photograph the gorge, I also collected objects from the site. For me, the found elements provided a different narrative opportunity. In the scrolls Chaos and Order I investigated these natural elements presented in groupings as a kind of language. These pictographs form poems made up from a natural vocabulary associated with the visual form of the written word.

Each element was scanned into the computer to obtain a replica of their likeness, the objects themselves were later returned to the site to continue their natural cycle. The scroll, Order, begins the dialogue by suggesting the elements of a genetic code. The arrangements of the seeds and leaves and other fragments are seemingly organised and uniform but, on closer observation, there are subtle differences to the repeated segments.

Chaos came as an answer to the cyclic relentless processes that continually ebb and flow through time in nature. It is the interruptions, upheavals and the process of change that nurture and ensure survival. Though these scrolls are without the scenic detail, they are the essence of the region, a distilled manuscript of the cycles and disruptive events in nature over time.

The Chaos and Order scrolls alongside the Hillside scroll

The Chaos and Order scrolls alongside the Hillside scroll

 

Five Stories from the Gorge, investigates the idea of wilderness and nature that exists in or on the edges of these human inhabited spaces.

 

The Gorge – from the series Five Stories from the Gorge 2001

 

Throughout the process of image collection and construction I was informed by the influences of visual poetry, environmental art and my scientific background. The landscape paintings of William Robinson and Lin Onus have both innately influenced the way I see and work over my career. These reconstructed spaces are as fictional as a Tolkien novel but at the same time provide the evidence of existence as if collected in a Darwinian exploration.

 

Victoria Cooper

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SEE A BLOG POST ABOUT The Five Stories of the Gorge: HERE

Bibliography
Timothy Druckrey (1994). ‘From Dada to Digital, Montage in the twentieth century’, Metamorphoses: Photography in the Electronic Age, Aperture, 136, Summer, pp 4-7.
Timothy Druckery (1996) editor. Electronic Culture, Technology and Visual Representation, New York, Aperture Foundation Inc.
Alberto Manguel (1996). A History of Reading, London, Harper Collins Publishers.
Alberto Manguel (2001). Reading Pictures, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WOTweTHINK: Joe Ruckli’s ‘LIGHTNING WITHOUT FLASH’

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Walking into Joe Ruckli’s exhibition Lightning Without Flash at the Queensland College of Art’s Web Gallery was a little like entering into the subject of his documentary work.

The white walls of the gallery evoke the opal miner’s white clay tunnels of Lightning Ridge in northern NSW. Here and there the glimmer of what opal miners call ‘colour’ appear in the form of photographs arranged in rows and in one random gallery hang.

In the center of the room on plinths sit piles of ‘potch’ – miners slang for junk opal in the form of Keno tickets, fractured clay clods, crumpled beverage cans, machinery debris and a ‘roly-poly’(tumble weed).

 

Lightning Without Flash QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… Installation QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Gallery visitors at the exhibition opening ... PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Gallery visitors at the exhibition openingPHOTO: Doug Spowart

 

In traditional documentary style Ruckli’s ‘miner’s tunnel’ presents visual material that tells or invokes stories about place.

Ruckli’s human inhabitants live hard lives working in difficult conditions.

  • A hand holds a wallet in which a well-handled 1960s b&w portrait of lady looks out of the frame – the thumbnail of the hand is damaged and cracked and a fly sits on the knuckle…
  • A 50s+ lady stares challengingly at the camera, hand on hip the other resting on the doorway to her ‘home’ – behind her head a circular dark shape, perhaps a window, acts like a halo. There are layers of meaning here…
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 

The human occupied space where people live and work is depicted as a run-down, rough and inhospitable place.

  • A caravan surrounded by assorted re-purposed corrugated iron sheeting hides within a barren withered land.
  • A ‘room’ of walls made of bits of bags, iron sheets, wood and bush poles seems like an abandoned hermit’s lair laid dormant for a century.
  • A shop in the street ‘Peter’s Opals’ presents a stark elevation despite the beauty of the stones inside for sale.
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 

The natural space is tough enough for plants and animals without it being overlaid by the detritus of human habitation and exploitation.

  • Bushland slashed by the track of grader blades, scattered bleached kangaroo bones and shrubbery covered by powdered bulldust giving the appearance of a snow scene.
  • A kangaroo skeleton lies in profile, its running pose is gradually being smothered by wind-blown dust to perhaps one day to be found as a fossil of this time…
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

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Ruckli has selectively, through his image and ephemera collecting, presented us with a first-hand experience of Lightning Ridge. It’s an alien space that few of us will ever encounter. But for one moment, in this white ‘tunnel’, we came to experience something of what lies behind the opal’s seduction. So powerful that it drives human endeavour to live, work and endure the hardships to strike the illusive and lucky find.

And we wonder about the gem – once extracted from its hiding in the claystones and then polished – destined for another place to adorn, as a jeweled accessory, the lifestyles of another world …

 

Doug Spowart with editorial support by Victoria Cooper

13 Jan 2020

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What is WOTweTHINK?

We attend many exhibitions and lament that these shows rarely have personal or reflective commentaries published about them. Our concept is to condense our thoughts into an Instagram-like short/sharp rought draft post. We hope that WOTweTHINK may encourage a broader discussion …

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A SELECTION OF OTHER IMAGES FROM THE EXHIBITION

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OUR 2019 FIELD STUDY Submission: Tidal fire debris

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Each year artists from around the world submit 100 copies of an artwork and mail them to an address in Geelong, Australia. Coordinator of the Field Study International mail art project David Dellafiora works with a team to collate and assemble the A5 sized artworks into books. Copies of the Field Study International are sold to collectors and institutional libraries around the world to raise funds for the workshop and to cover project costs. Contributing artists are also sent a copy.

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This has been a great yearly project for us for over 10 years. What follows is the story of our submission for 2019. At the end of the post there’s a brief story about Dellafiora’s Field Study Projects. David is also involved in many other mail art projects… LOOK HERE

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Narrabri roadside PHOTO: © Doug Spowart

Narrabri roadside PHOTO: © Doug Spowart

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Surrounded by fire

Recently we drove through central western New South Wales and southern Queensland. The country was dry and hot with willy-willies and dust storms lifting and moving the precious soil across the landscape. There was little or no green and the dams were dry- even rivers that would normally have some water were just sand and dry dirt. Travelling on further we witnessed the great Brigalow forests of southern Queensland seemingly quivering under the heat of the summer sun.

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Overall the country was brittle and broken from the endless dry. Not even summer there was a concern for the future as country towns not used to running out of water were in dire situations. Coastal areas where fire is a part of environmental regeneration there was also widespread concern for this now unusual extended periods of dry. This was not a normal cycle… The country was about to explode… all it takes is a dry thunderstorm with lightning, a careless smoker driving past or sadly a deliberate act from criminals.

So then the fires started so much earlier than expected… the many brave souls rallied to fight for their community. But these were not just the normal local bush fires… They grew and joined to form huge firestorms, the fighters used all they could find from buckets to the fire fighting trucks… But much of the land was inaccessible and many areas of forest could not be saved from the onslaught of wind and heat… Some forests that had survived through the millennia without fire in unique and protected ecosystems were now potentially changed forever.

Fired forest near New Italy, northern NSW PHOTO: Victoria Cooper ©

Fired forest near New Italy, northern NSW PHOTO: Victoria Cooper ©

We then came to stay at a friend’s family retreat on the coast of Northern NSW… The road to this place passes through huge areas of swamp and eucalypt forest that rarely burns as it is usually has good rain. But now we drove past kilometres and kilometres of burnt and dry country… We soon found that the regional area where our destination is located was surrounded by blackened country. The atmosphere, as with most of the coast in NSW was chocking with smoke and dust.

Even though we were assured that our town was safe these were not usual times and we felt uneasy and depressed by the enormity of this disaster.

We decided to dedicate our field report work to record this devastation. Our dismay was deepened when we walked along the beach and witnessed lines of leaves and twigs and other blackened material washed up with the tide .. like the dead bodies of victims discarded by criminals. Down the length of the entire coast of NSW where other fires raged, these waves of blackened and broken forests were appearing – the sea has returned the evidence to the place of the crime.

We began by gathering small samples of the material as symbolic references to vast amount of evidence left behind from these black tides. This Field Report is our first response as part of future substantive work on the contemporary condition of indifference, arrogance and ignorance towards a deteriorating environment.

Victoria Cooper

Ashed beach, Wooli northern NSW PHOTO: Doug Spowart ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUR SUBMISSION

COOPER+SPOWART 2019 Field Study submission

 

Signing the 100 prints…

100 prints...

100 prints…

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SOME BACKGROUND TO FIELD STUDY REPORT

 

Field Study International 2019 Call for Entries

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2011 Field Report cover

2011 Field Report cover

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2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report

2011 Field Report

2011 Field Report pages

2011 Field Report pages

A page of participants - 2011 Field Report

A page of participants – 2011 Field Report

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Look out for the 2020 Call for Submissions …

 

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BIFB: PHOTOBOOK WEEKEND – A Report

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BIFB Webpage Header

 

WORLD PHOTOBOOK WEEKEND

 

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale was proud to host the World Photobook Day during the festival between Saturday 12 October and Monday 14 October. The call-out was to Celebrate World Photobook Day with other photography enthusiasts by attending 4 photobook events over the weekend.

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Doug meeting with Aaron Bradbrook

Doug meeting with Aaron Bradbrook

The back story for the BIFB’s World Photobook Weekend is that in March Vicky and I visited the BIFB in its home the National Centre of Photography. In a conversation with Associate Curator Aaron Bradbrook we pitched the idea of a photobook event to coincide with World Photobook Day.

In followup conversations with the BIFB Creative Director Fiona Sweet a series of four events became part of the program. The events were: a keynote talk, a forum, a photobook fair and a birthday celebration.

 

With BIFB Creative Director Fiona Sweet

In the months that followed we worked with Fiona, refined the event focus and the people who could be involved. We then followed through with our side of the necessary preparations and promotion of the event.

This series of Blog posts provides a report on the four events as well as an opportunity to present a commentary on the Australian and New Zealand photobooks that was the topic of the talk I presented on the first day of the weekend.

To navigate through the events just ‘CLICK’ on the title tab. At the end of each post there’s a ‘RETURN to the HOMEPAGE’ link.

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SATURDAY 12 OCTOBER

Doug Spowart + ANZ Photobooks


TALK BY DOUG SPOWART

Many Tribes: The Australian And New Zealand Photobook

Click LINK

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SUNDAY 13 OCTOBER

Book Fair participants


PHOTOBOOK FAIR

Click LINK

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Forum Panelists

 

FORUM: Photobooks – Getting Published & Getting Collected 

with Patrick Pound, Sarah Walker, Heidi Romano and David Wadelton. Moderated by Doug Spowart

Click LINK

 

MONDAY 14 OCTOBER

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World Photobook Day Birthday Celebration


HAPPY BIRTHDAY PARTY
!   Celebrating 176 years of photobooks

Click LINK

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ANZ PHOTOBOOKS – Keynote TALK: BIFB Photobook Weekend

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BIFB Website

 

Many Tribes: The Australian & New Zealand Photobook

A talk by Doug Spowart

The photobook disrupted the 1990’s prediction that ‘the book is dead’ and grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Doug Spowart will address key aspects of the historical and contemporary makeup of the photobook in Australia & New Zealand where the various ‘tribes’ contribute to a vibrant and progressive discipline.

October 12 @ 2pm, World Photobook Weekend Hub
Mitchell Harris Wines, 38 Doveton Street North

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What follows in this Blog post is a synopsis of the presentation with references to various aspects of the Australian and New Zealand photobook scene. Where possible links have been provided to external sources for further information.

Please note: This presentation is part of ongoing research and will be added to and refined as new information becomes available.

 

Photobook Talk: Introductory comments

 

At 2.00pm I welcomed the 30 or so people who attended this BIFB Photobook Weekend event.

In the opening statements I acknowledged the Traditional Custodians, the Wathaurong people of the land on which we met, and recognised their continuing connection to land, water and community. I paid my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. And I also wished to recognise the importance of storytelling and its continuing tradition today…

I announced to the attendees that due to the recent passing of the doyen of New Zealand photobooks Harvey Benge, that the event would be dedicated to his memory.

With these formalities completed I began the talk:

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Doug Spowart and ANZ photobooks he loves

Doug Spowart and ANZ photobooks he loves Photo: Victoria Cooper

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I have been working in photography for over 50 years and the photobook has been, and continues to be – my teacher, inspiration and obsession. I have read, bought, collected, loaned books and on occasion not given them back to their rightful owners because they were so special to me and I couldn’t part with them.

In my youth these books inspired and fed my insatiable curiosity of the world and informed me of its challenges and wonders beyond my own experience.

Over time I encountered an increasing diversity and depth in all forms of books and their makers of photobooks, artists’ books and zines. I became interested and involved in each of these different groups researching and documenting their aims, manifestos, their key practitioners, education alliances and reward structures. Much like ‘tribes’ these communities of creative practice gather together within the rich milieu of visual communication through the form of the book.

 

But First – a little photobook history

In 1839 William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the key inventors of photography, stated that photography would make, Every man his own printer and publisher. He went on in 1844 to publish the book, The Pencil of Nature as a treatise on the uses of photography using his calotype process.

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Anna Atkins

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Scientific illustrator Anna Atkins used the ‘blue print’ cyanotype process to produce a book in 1843 entitled Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Atkins’ book is recognized as the first photobook as images and texts were printed on the page at the same time – whereas Talbot’s prints glued or tipped-in on the pages and the text printed using letterpress. In recent years the date that Atkins’ book was catalogued by the British Library, October 14 1843, has become celebrated as ‘World Photobook Day’.

In the 175 years since the Atkins and Talbot, the use of photographs in books has developed into a powerful carrier of information and ideas either with or without text. Book design including format, paper selection, layout, typography and production methods have also developed in companionship with this growing interest in the photobook as a form of communication. The onset of desktop and online publishing created an environment where individuals and collectives could independently publish. The art and commercial process of book production and publication is under an epic transformation. Talbot’s phrase – Every man [or woman] his [her] own printer and publisher has become a reality.

 

Early reference books about photographically illustrated books and photobooks

 

The ‘Photobook’

Historically bibliographers have categorised books with photographic narrative or content using the terms ‘photographic book’ or ‘photographically illustrated book’.

Over the last 20 years however interest in the photographic book emerged encouraged by the critical review and commentary of the discipline in publications starting with Phillip Roth’s 2001 The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century, and the 2004 ICP exhibition and publication, The open book : a history of the photographic book from 1878 to the present. However the term ‘photobook’ came to prominence as a result of three tomes published in 2004, 2006 & 2013 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger The Photobook: A History. Originally the purpose of the discussion in these books was to establish a cannon for photographic books. Later the term photobook came to encompass all kinds of books including those from the contemporary boom in trade and self-published books.

Within a few short years the photobook became a publishing phenomenon. Whilst frameworks may have previously existed in the publishing world the drivers of the new photobook discipline – mainly photographers, created hierarchies consisting of awards, criticism, knowledge sharing and educational structures, supported by boutique publishers as well as the powerful established brands. Photobook designers also found new recognition for the unique contribution that they could make in transforming a photographer’s body of work, often in collaboration with the photographer, into a work of visual communication. Scholarship and collector market interest spawned bookshelves of critiques, surveys and catalogues covering the books from just about every nation of the world. Social media hype by key influencers and their particular sphere of interest set trends and photobooks became a sexy, desirable and collectible commodity.

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THE ANTIPODEAN PHOTOBOOK – A BRIEF HISTORY

Within its remote geographic location the Antipodean photographically illustrated book was very much based on trade published books that reflected the needs and interests of society. Publishers selected books containing content that would be highly saleable to the public. Of concern to the publisher was the book format, production values at a price that would provide an appropriate return on the investment. In the 100 years from 1900 books published followed certain themes and subject matter.

  • 1900/30 Illustration/pictorial/documentary
  • 1940–50 Nationalistic pride/immigration
  • 1960s Discovering/celebrating who we are as a people
  • 1970s – The political book
  • 1980–90s – A celebration of landscape and the wilderness
  • 1990 Exploring visual storytelling + Documentary

For a more illustrated discussion of this topic please see the lecture slides from my 2017 Vienna Photobook Festival lecture.

 

Australian & New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards book from 2017   …PHOTO: Courtesy MomentoPro

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The Antipodean Photobook – A CONTEMPORARY VIEW

To have a perceived currency in the global scene the Antipodean photobook – its practice, publishing and marketing has been arguably influenced by the Euro/US market and taste. Where does this place the local photobooks? Does it merely mimic the Northern hemisphere’s trends in their book products? While some aspects of practice do take their lead from the cross Atlantic product, could its isolation have enabled the Antipodean photobook discipline to develop in other ways. Photographers from this region have their own unique and intimate vision. They have access to variety of subject matter from the social circumstances of people, to environments and political spaces. They also have opportunities to connect with local allied creatives in book design, publishing and printing technologies including print-on-demand and desktop self-print.

 

The Antipodean Photobook – TRIBES

In this talk I want to highlight the diversity of this region’s creative potential and participation in the photobook medium. In that diversity there are various groups that can be recognised and acknowledged as publishing an Antipodean view. In my review of Australian and New Zealand photobook publishing I have found the following author groups or collectives with their associated motivations:

  • Those who make books for the general market that will be sold through online or bricks and mortar bookshops
  • Those who make books for a discerning clientele sold in specialized art/architecture/design bookshops or gallery bookstores
  • Self-publishers making books by POD or hand-making intended for the art book market
  • Self-publishers making zines and ephemera for free distribution through their culturally-connected venues
  • Those who were once called ‘vanity publishers’ – making books because they can
  • Those who make publish political manifestos
  • Those who publish with the principles of altruism – creating books to distribute ideas and social comment
  • Artists who make ‘fine art’ books for collectors and public collections.

Each of these makers associate, collaborate, and form associations – both personal, professionally and organisationally with like-minded people who share their interests. For some time I called these groups or collectives ‘tribes’. Distance separates photobook makers in Melbourne from their peers in Sydney, or for that matter with Adelaide or Brisbane. Similarly Australian photobook makers may not have any significant connection with New Zealand makers and vis-à-versa. Other ‘tribes’ may exist in the fields of academe, design and publishing as well as areas relating to the collection and criticism of photobooks. Then there are different ‘tribes’ for those that sell photobooks with some having a specific interest in antiquarian or historical photobooks, whilst others may focus on contemporary books. Certainly there are practitioners who crossover into different tribal groups but generally each tribe stands alone.

Whatever the ‘tribe’ there is a rich and diverse community of practice for photobooks in Australia and New Zealand replete with events and supporting structures.

 

The Antipodean Photobook – KEY EVENTS AND SUPPORTING ASPECTS

Conferences

Fairs

Publishers

Awards

Bookshops and online sellers

Supporting organisations + Interesting stuff

 

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The Antipodean Photobook – MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS

 

The Asia Pacific Photobook Archive

A contributor to the ANZ photobook scene is the large collection of photobooks assembled by the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive. APPA was founded by Daniel Boetker-Smith in 2013 and is now coordinated by Daniel and Bella Capezio. The Archive is a not-for-profit open-access physical archive of self-published and independent photobooks and is now situated in Le Space in Collingwood, Melbourne. Contained within the Archive is a significant collection of contemporary photobooks from the Asia/Pacific region with some books coming from the western Asian region. Books in the Archive can be accessed by appointment and may also be presented from time to time in exhibitions, presentations and displays.

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Perimeter Books

Leading the push to publish and present Antipodean photobooks and artbooks to the world is the Melbourne publisher Perimeter Books. Founded by Dan Rule and Justine Ellis, Perimeter Books has developed a solid presence at all the major artbook fairs around the world. Additionally Perimeter’s bookshops and online service brings specialist books from the contemporary international scene within reach of the local market. They have supported and promoted local photo and artbook authors through their annual Small Book Award.

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Justine Ellis & Dan Rule – Perimeter Books

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Photobooks in education – Photography Studies College

For some time photo educators in all levels of academic study have included the photobook as a capstone project or a holistic assessment assignment. In recent years many of the graduates of these institutions enter the photobook scene with a significant publication that launches their publishing career.

One Australian institution, Photography Studies College (PSC) in Melbourne, has nurtured many emerging photobook makers including Sarah Walker – Winner of the ANZ Photobook Award and the Perimeter Small Book Prize. The engine that drives the PSC photobook is Course Director Daniel Boetker-Smith assisted by a team of lecturers themselves photobook authors. PSC has also supported special events for the wider photobook community including workshops and lectures with the photobook doyen Martin Parr, the acclaimed designer Teun van der Heidjen and the educator associate professor Corinne Noordenbos.

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MomentoPro Sponsorship of ANZ Photobooks

Significant enablers to the local recognition of our photobooks include the yearly photobook awards that bring together a diverse selection of books for their critical evaluation and recognition. Coordinated and supported by the photobook print-on-demand company MomentoPro with the Patrons Libby Jeffery and Geoff Hunt, this yearly event creates a focus for the Antipodean photobook community of practice.

The MomentoPro organization has also altruistically supported many other major local events including Photobook New Zealand in 2016 & 18 and Photobook Melbourne in 2015 as well as numerous awards both national and local for photobooks. In 2017 MomentoPro supported the freight costs towards getting the ANZ Photobook Awards to the Vienna Photobook Festival.

What follows is a small selection of events supported by MomentoPro…

 

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ANZ photobooks puchased by the Tate

In early 2019 a collection of 52 ANZ photobooks curated by Victoria Cooper and myself were accepted into the UK Tate Library. The project was initiated by Martin Parr to add Antipodean content to the 12.5k photobooks that he had donated to the Tate in 2017.

Martin Parr reviewing ANZ photobooks with Doug Spowart at the State Library of Victoria

Documenting the history ANZ photobooks

Over the last 3 years I have been adding to the information about ANZ photobooks by the compilation of a COMPENDIUM of all things about the Australian and New Zealand photobook discipline. The latest edition of the Compendium focused on the Australian scene and was launched at the Melbourne Art Book Fair in March this year. I am presently working on an update of the New Zealand listings for Photobook New Zealand in March 2020.

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A Conclusion

What I hope for is that through the recognition of the different ‘tribes’ in the Antipodean photobook that I have discussed today, we can celebrate the diversity of practice that has developed in this part of the world. Through recording, highlighting and discussion of the photobook discipline in the Antipodes will be made visible and find its place within the international scene.

In the meantime what continues to excite me about photobooks is that materialised in each book is a concept revealed, a view shared, an opinion expressed, a shout uttered or a tender moment whispered. And while the author’s life moves on – the books are left behind on shelves in libraries, on coffee tables and left casually opened on the bedside table. The photobook, is the ultimate intimate and portable archive of the life and times of the artist.

 

For future reading…

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Doug Spowart

A revised version of the talk presented at the 2019 Ballarat International Foto Biennalé on October 12.

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Documenting the Antipodean Photobook

My research in the Antipodean photobook world its tribes and the discipline is on-going. I may have met many people, participated in numerous events and looked and lusted after maybe thousands of books, but I find it is an ever-expanding space of creative activity. Wherever possible I document the people and places I encounter …

 

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NOTE: Should any captions in this post contain incorrect information please contact us and advise so we can make the necessary changes.

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All photographs, unless indicated otherwise, are the copyright of Doug Spowart.
Please contact Doug Spowart to access permission to copy or use images for any purpose.
Text ©2019 Doug Spowart
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