Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Australian Photographic Society

EULOGY: GRAHAM BURSTOW – A personal view

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BURSTOW-Self Portrait for Viewer & the Viewed exhibition QCP 2006

Graham Burstow – Self Portrait – Viewer & the Viewed show at QCP 2006


Recently I have been working through my extensive archive, and Graham Burstow‘s name kept surfacing. I found a piece of correspondence from nearly 20 years ago when I was asked by the Australian Honours Secretariat to support a nomination for Graham for an Australia Day Honour. At the time I was the chair of the AIPP Education Sub-committee and had previously provided letters of support for photography related nominations.


Even though 20 years has elapsed since being written, the words still hold true. We should recognise that Graham continued and expanded his connection with the great love of his life – photography.


I am honoured to be able to present this commentary on our friend – Graham Burstow OAM



LETTER DATED: August 3, 2003

Australian Honours Secretariat,
Government House,
Canberra    ACT  2600

Subject: Graham Burstow

Dear Secretariat,

I have known Graham Burstow since the late 1960’s. He has been a significant inspiration due to his dedication to the art of image-making, but also his support of many structures that shape photography in this country. While I make mention of this man’s influence on my life, his works and work have touched and inspired thousands of Australian and international photographers for nearly 50 years.

Graham Burstow’s main sphere of interest is in the camera club movement. He has held numerous positions within the Australian Photographic Society including national President, Chairman of the Print Division, keynote speaker and mentor. Since 1959 he has held positions within the Toowoomba Photographic Society (one of the oldest such groups in Australia). Burstow has been Chairman of no fewer than 6 national and international exhibitions of salon photography.

In his hometown of Toowoomba he has each year coordinated several national art photography awards including the McGregor Prize for Photography at the University of Southern Queensland, and the Heritage Photographic Award at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery since 1977. In my opinion Graham Burstow has a hand in, and a hand to offer, for anything photographic from presenting lectures or judging awards for students at the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE where I work, or assisting community groups including senior citizens groups and Lifeline.

Burstow’s work appears regularly in magazines and publications including his self-published book “Touch Me”.  In 1984 I curated a substantial survey of his work at Imagery Gallery in Brisbane. His work has been shown in salon exhibitions world-wide and in major institutions like the Queensland Art Gallery.

Graham Burstow has received significant honours for his photographic work and his service to photography including the following: Associateship and EFIAP(service) of the International Federation of Photographic Art, Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society, Associateship of the Photographic Society of America and a Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Photographic Society.

In a review of his book “Touch Me” I commented that:

Burstow’s work is about sharing his vision with the world.  It represents a lifetime of photographic exploration of the art.  Burstow’s work is not just about camera club pictorialism but also aspects of the human condition and the humour of everyday situations.  This book is not intended as a catalogue for purchase, it is rather a communique, the photographer reaching out with the world in his photographs inviting the viewer to touch the experience portrayed.

Diversity of style and subject is apparent in Burstow’s journey in photography.  It seems as if he had walked alongside Max Dupain at the beach, been with Wolfgang Sievers at the building site, shared an impromptu moment with Henri Cartier-Bresson, a portrait session with Arnold Newman, some personal introspective moments with Nan Goldin, and an adventure with Frank Hurley.

Australian photography would be greatly diminished if it were not for the contribution of this generous and modest man – I have great pleasure in supporting his nomination for the Order of Australia.

Yours faithfully,

Doug Spowart  M.Photog, FAIPP, Hon.FAIPP   Chair of the AIPP Education Sub-committee




Click on the image to enlarge the view and see the full caption



Australian Cultural Library presentation media Cobb & Co Toowoomba 2021 PHOTO Doug Spowart

ACL presentation media at Cobb & Co Museum Toowoomba 2021 PHOTO Doug Spowart


For an insight into how he felt about his life in photography, an event in 2021 at the Cobb & Co Museum recorded by the Chronicle Newspaper (paywall) might provide an answer. Graham was being awarded a Life Membership of the Australian Cultural Library (ACL) by the director Steve Towson. In a video interview he was to comment that he had been photographing for 73 years. He also added:

When you look at the things you can do to keep your mind occupied and increase the length of your life, photography is nearly always near the top of the list.

It keeps your mind busy and even when you are not photographing you are probably thinking about something you want to photograph.

I think it’s worked in my case … I enjoy it, met a lot of wonderful people, it’s been great to get to go to a lot of interesting places… *



In my collection I have a Graham Burstow photograph entitled No 2 The Day Ahead. For me, at this time it is a poignant image …


NO 2 THE DAY AHEAD by Burstow







*Tribute for Toowoomba photographer icon Graham Burstow Stephen Burstow John Elliott | The Chronicle  (Paywall story)

Thanks to Bev Lacey for the ACL quote and photograph and Zigi for the gift of the Noosa 10×8 photograph






ROGER SKINNER: A Life in Light – the book

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Roger Skinner and the blog author at the APSCON book launch

Roger Skinner and the blog author at the APSCON book launch


Roger Skinner is a prolific image maker, artist, photobook maker and poet. Skinner has won many of Australia art photography awards yet he also pursued an interest in the camera club movement. Celebrating 50 years of his photography Roger has compiled a weighty book divided into the subject themes that he chose to explore. Earlier this year he spoke with me about his self-published folly – 500 books, over 300 pages of colour and black and white photographs, every page a picture with consideration for the double page pairings. He also asked me to write a foreword to the book. In September Roger visited the printers in Canberra, picked up the proofs and brought them around to our house-sit in Queanbeyan with his print coordinator and brother Ian. What a moment to witness as the table before us was covered with the uncut pages of the book … A few suggestions and some corrections were made – then the presses rolled.


Ian Skinner, Vicky, Roger and Doug looking at proofs

Ian Skinner, Vicky, Roger and Doug looking at proofs


For many years Roger was a director of the ‘Contemporary Group’ in Australian Photographic Society. Although he resigned his membership of the Society many years ago he was invited back to the APSCON convention at Tweed Heads to launch the book and make a presentation about self-publishing. As the proverbial ‘prodigal son’ Roger gave the 100 or so attendees the back story to his life in photography from the first photograph to those made relatively recently. He alluded to the complexities of self-publishing and the anxiety associated with committing to a personally funded book project in the many thousands of dollars. However his presentation was not intended to dissuade others from considering making their own books, but rather the realities of such an undertaking.


Roger Skinner presenting his book story @ APSON Conference

Roger Skinner presenting his book story @ APSON Conference


Towards the end of Roger’s lecture he asked me to come forward and officially launch the book. As I stood before this APSCON audience I was reminded of my first experience as a presenter in 1977 as a young budding photographer. Then, as now, the audience contained some of my mentors and heroes. These included Bill Smit gave me my first experience of a properly setup darkroom and printing techniques. And Graham Burstow, the Toowoomba photographer who inspired me in the late 1960s, and who is still as lively as ever with a new show just opened at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery. Like Roger my APS membership has now lapsed – I first joined in 1967 – perhaps I digress.

I spoke of Roger’s A Life in Light book as being a brave venture. Of how all photographers have libraries and that they learn principally from the books of others. I told them about the great variety of Roger’s work: was he a pictorialist? A photodocumentist? An abstractionist or a poet with a lens…? It gave me great pleasure to launch the book and I encouraged those present to support Roger, and their interest in photography to buy a book that very day … many did.


Doug Spowart launches Roger Skinner's 'A Life in Light' PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

Doug Spowart launches Roger Skinner’s ‘A Life in Light’ PHOTO: Victoria Cooper


If you have an interest in seeing a collection of inspirational work created over 50 years then A Life in Light may be an ideal book to have in your library – to purchase:


Book $40.00 each

Postage and packing in Australia $13.40

Email address is rojpix@ipstarmail.com.au

Direct Deposits to Newcastle Permanent BSB 650 000 Acct No 915531504



.Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light'

Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light'

Roger Skinner's first photos

Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light'





The life and work of the regional artist

I have known Roger Skinner for over 30years and I can say that in the art of photography, he is a regional artist who cares little for his farawayness from the city. Spending a lifetime devoted to the camera and its image Skinner has pursued a range of activities in the camera club movement, professional photography associations and the photomedia art scene. Although he has an interest in the photograph as a historical document, Skinner’s practice also includes investigations into the nude, landscape, light painting, the self-image and environmental portraiture. His work has been extensively exhibited in solo and group shows, he has won numerous awards in every field of photographic endeavour, and his work is held in major private and public collections.

Not only is Roger Skinner the consummate artist, he is an organiser, facilitator and committee member. He is a builder and champion of networks that provide opportunities for others. Many will know him for his coordination of the Muswellbrook Art Photography Prize, an award won by major Australian photographers and judged by elite Australian curators, critics and commentators of the art. As a conference presenter, teacher and mentor, he has inspired and enthused many to extend their photography activities. For some time he was Education Officer at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Gallery, and has also served as the Director of the Contemporary Group of the Australian Photographic Society.

But has the remoteness of his practice affected recognition for his own work? Apart from significant urban artists who have taken to living fashionably in the country after they have achieved their fame – how many regional artists have well deserved recognition in this country? Not many … not many. Recognition or not Roger Skinner just gets on with making his art and pursuing his other activities.

The regional space, people and their stories have revealed themselves to Skinner. His eclectic visual style exudes a kind of poetic response to the subject and life. Roger Skinner’s photographs tell us not only something of his interest and his eye for the world, but also how these photographs can touch with our experience of life and tell us something about ourselves.

Proximity has located Skinner in regional New South Wales, and despite a modicum of national infiltration of his work, this isolation may have served him well. However one could ponder the broader recognition and opportunities for his work had he lived in the creative networked proximity of a big city. Perhaps the extensive body of work presented in this book may enable a repositioning of his work within a pantheon of significant Australian photographers.

Dr Doug Spowart

Co-Founder – Centre for Regional Arts Practice





Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light' Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light' Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light' Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light' Roger Skinner's book 'A Life in Light'


All texts and photographs except that by Victoria Cooper  ©Doug Spowart




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APS Travelling Print Exhibition 2012 @ Atelier Gallery Toowoomba

In 2012 the Australian Photographic Society celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its formation. One of the three remaining foundation members from 1962 is Toowoomba’s own Graham Burstow. Graham and other local photographic luminaries Barry Whisson, Alwyn Kucks and Gerry Saide attended an exhibition of 100 prints from the 2012 APS Travelling Exhibition at Atelier Gallery on October 10, 2012.

The APS has come a long way in its 50 years and while I wasn’t around in the beginning I’ve been there since first joining the organisation in 1967. There’s something comfortable about the style of pictorialism that amateur photographers have refined and mastered that is evident in this show. And while some curators and academics may argue that pictorialism is a style of photography that died out a long time ago it’s alive a well an continuing to contribute amazing images of the world we inhabit — a few are selected here.

What for me is exciting is how everyone now can make their own high quality prints.15 years ago in the pre-digital era the projected colour slide was king as everyone could put a roll of Kodachrome in the 35mm camera and make photographs. Those who worked in the specialist technology trap of the darkroom were few and far between. What’s more the predominant genre was black and white as colour papers and processes were not really designed for home processing. Digital photography, computers and inkjet printing has given everyone the equivalent of a darkroom!

Congratulations to APS on its celebration of 50 years and to the members whose work was included in this exhibition.

FOR MORE DETAILS: http://www.a-p-s.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152&Itemid=214

Vicky and Alwyn Kucks discussing an image

Cynthia Henley-Smith’s “A country road, Victoria

Graeme Guy (Sing.) “Seconds to live”

Tina Deal (Qld) “Aussie bush”

Graham Burstow and Doug @ Atelier Gallery, Toowoomba

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