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PHOTOBOOK WEEKEND @ Ballarat International Foto Biennalé

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The Ballarat International Foto Biennale is proud to host the World Photobook Day during our festival. Join us from Saturday 12 October until Monday 14 October to celebrate this auspicious birthday!

Celebrate World Photobook Day with other photography enthusiasts. Participants will meet at Mitchell Harris Wines the World Photobook Weekend Hub to share their books before heading together to the talks and the Fotobook Fair.



VR Book Train

Photobook Train 
from Southern Cross Station

Celebrate World Photobook Day by hopping on the train to meet other photography enthusiasts. Meet at Southern Cross Station to catch the train to Ballarat with your photobooks and discuss with others. (Passengers must have a valid myki. Regional fares are listed at ptv.vic.gov).


Doug Spowart + ANZ Photobooks

Talk by Doug Spowart

Many Tribes: The Australian And New Zealand Photobook

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.

World Photobook Weekend Hub
Mitchell Harris Wines, 38 Doveton Street North




Photobook Train 
from Southern Cross Station

Celebrate World Photobook Day by hopping on the train to meet other photography enthusiasts. Meet at Southern Cross Station to catch the train to Ballarat with your photobooks and discuss with others. (Passengers must have a valid myki. Regional fares are listed at ptv.vic.gov).


Book Fair participants

10am – 5pm
Photobook Fair

Art Gallery Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North

Celebrate World Photobook Day with other photography enthusiasts at our second Foto Book Fair – an all-day event at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Participants:

  • Australian and New Zealand Photo Book Awards
  • Ballarat International Foto Biennale
  • Bookhouse
  • Studio Yeah
  • Colin Abbott
  • Fems
  • Melbourne Photobook Collective
  • Particle Books
  • Photography Studies College
  • Sainsburys
  • State Library Victoria
  • The Fridge Door Project; Vault.


Forum Panelists


FORUM: Photobooks – Getting Published & Getting Collected 

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

What sparks and drives the passion for the photo book? How do photographers get published? And how can photographers establish and grow meaningful collections? Join Doug Spowart and a diverse panel of photobook practitioners and publishers as they answer these and other associated questions through their personal observations, stories and predictions.

Join us as we blow out the candles for the official World Photobook Day celebrations.

World Fotobook Weekend Hub
Mitchell Harris Wines, 38 Doveton Street North




WPD Birthday Candles

11am – 1pm
Happy Birthday Party
!   Celebrating 176 years of photobooks

Join us as we blow out the candles for the official World Photobook Day celebrations.

World Photobook Weekend Hub
Mitchell Harris Wines, 38 Doveton Street North


ALL EVENTS ARE FREE: Please book at the BIFB website


World Photobook Weekend

PHOTOBOOK ANXIETY – A paper by Doug Spowart

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What follows is a transcript of the paper presented at the ‘Borderless Futures: Reimaging the Citizen’ Symposium as part of the 2015 Ballarat International Foto Biennale. Selected images from the presentation accompany the text to illustrate concepts raised. The text is relatively conversational as it was ‘performed’ rather than read to the audience.



Photobook Anxiety graphic

PHOTOBOOK ANXIETY… a paper by Dr Doug Spowart


I doubt that Henry Fox Talbot or Anna Atkins realised in the 1840s what an impact that the photobook would have in the 21st century and the role it plays in the self-publishing revolution that we are witnessing today. The old publishing and bookselling paradigm is now redefining itself and trying to maintain its composure and power over their once lucrative territory. Now every photographer wants and can make their own books – but they need the inspiration found in the latest photobooks and they need to be kept informed by the movers and shakers of the discipline as to what is happening now, and what are the future trends and opportunities.

As a result there is a heightened anxiety for constant and direct personal connection with the pulse of this worldwide phenomena. Social media is the communication vehicle of choice and participants in the photobook network are driven to frenetically seek updates, reviews, new releases, posts about their books and the latest gossip through social media channels.

The anxiety surrounding this activity is palpable and the frisson of social media, particularly Facebook, is the powerful tool for this necessary communication as well as for community building in the burgeoning indie publishing photobooks movement.


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Welcome to ‘Photobook Anxiety’ otherwise known by its clinical title PBX. It is driven by the sufferer having an uncontrollable desire to be a part of everything photobook happening in the world. It is characterised by the sufferer constantly checking social media –

What are the signs that of those suffering from this malady?


Wishing I could be there…

There are so many events that happen worldwide it’s impossible to get to all of them let alone one. In a recent Facebook newsfeed the frustrated respondent posted ‘Oh I would freaking kill to be there…”

A sampling of the year’s calendar includes these events:

  • Photobook Melbourne February
  • Art Book Melbourne – May
  • Photo London – May
  • Auckland Festival of Photography (Photobook Symposium) – May
  • Kassel Foto Book Festival – June
  • Obscura Festival of Photography (Photobook Day) – August
  • Perimeter book sale last weekend
  • Book Case Study in the Netherlands – September
  • Aperture at Photo Paris – November


I should have bought a copy of…. Out-of-print/Limited editions/pre-orders


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Trent Parke’s Dream Life, probably Australia’s greatest ever photobook, is an excellent example of a rare and out-of-print photobook. Originally selling for around $60 in 2001 it is now is impossible to get for prices less that 25 times that amount.

One was listed on Amazon recently for 1550 Pounds?

Earlier this year one was offered in a Photoeye’s Auction – with a day to go it was $ 895 I did not see the final hammer price…

Last year Abebooks listed one for $1084 in this very town (Ballarat) – I’ve just checked and the Known World Bookshop down the street and they have sold the book.


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Limited Editions and Pre-Ordering

Adding to this PMX is the trend particularly among American photobook suppliers like Photo-Eye to advertise limited supplies of signed books which can be ‘pre-ordered’ with specific cut-off times and dates. Even these can be out-sold before you hear about the offer being available as in the case recently with Sally Mann’s Hold Still.

Recently Australian Bloom Publishing offered little badges with the text ‘Print Forever’ as white text on a black background. These were ‘snapped-up’ and a following post Bloom advised that the badges were ‘all gone’! But advised FB Friends to ‘Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks’. PMX now demands that Bloom is followed closely so you won’t miss out on the following offers….


You anxiously await the posts and stories of people you follow…

Who hasn’t been following the exploits of photobook officiando Sam Harris and his latest book The Middle of Somewhere. Sam’s posts have taken us a long on the journey illustrated by images that could well form the basis of a new book. As FB friends we saw the posted images of the design stages and felt his excitement at seeing the book on bookshelves at major European shows and being on a table at Arles with the book. The anguish of the missing visa to re-enter Australia and the joy of being back in Australia and the Balingup sunset at home… Oh! And the set up for his exhibition and book launch by Alasdair Foster at BIFB…


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You anxiously await the posts about new stuff…

FB Friends – People who you respect and believe know what’s going on offer advice on books to look at, and get before they are sold out. Adding to PBX phrases like ‘Look what I got today from Photoeye, Alejandro Cartagena’s latest book. It will be gone before you know it’ and ‘Holy moly!!! If you can get your hands on a copy of Mariela Sancari’s brilliant ‘Moises’, do it now. Only 500 copies.’

A couple of days ago Anita Totha from the Photobook Club Auckland posted that Broomberg+Chanarin’s latest book was available: ‘Better get your hands on this now…’. Even Bloom has a new pin — gotta get that! And what about Martin Parr badged clothing and accessories … could that be going a bit far…?


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You lament the gaps you’ve identified in your collection!

PBX will cause ‘sufferers’ go to extraordinary lengths to try and fill them… An ‘Ask Meta Filter poster exclaims ‘Help me get my hands on Trent Parke. I mean, his books. It’s driving me mental. I must get Trent Parke’s “Dream Life” and “Seventh Wave” … Replies state the value of the book with responses like ‘Ouch’, ‘And no Dream/Life to be found. Snif’

In another post on ‘The Online Blog’ Kelvin, a respondent from Melbourne, brags about ‘poking his head’ into a second hand bookshop on the way to buying some biscuits from his local Subway store and asked if they had a copy of Dream Life ––– they did, and sold it to him for $70


So busy trying to be ‘in it’ you have no time for your own work

Doug Stockdale of The Photobook blog recently posted ‘a change to my photobook commentaries’. He’s overwhelmed by the ‘dizzying rate’ of new photobooks and the quality and creativity of these books. Stockdale comments that they need ‘a shout out to the photographic community at large to increase awareness’ and that is what his blog attempts to do. However he’s finding that there’s not enough time for his own projects so he announced a a more ‘concise’ Facebook format for the blog in future posts…


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Just how pervasive is PBX?


Using SM for personal communications

A few days before Mothers Day this year a Brisbane acquaintance received notification that Ciaran Og Arnold’s ‘I went to the worst of bars…’ book was available in a bookshop in Amsterdam – She posted ‘I want this for Mother’s Day’ Her partner responded in less than an hour – ‘You got it’. Weeks later she triumphantly able to post that the book has arrived.


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That you know the picture backgrounds for each photobook commentator’s blogs…

Every photobook supplier, commentator, collector or archive has a standard background that is used for his or her social media presence:

Perimeter Books in Melbourne has the shop-view, sometimes with a table of books with Justine or Emma’s hand.

The Indie Photobook Library is the tabletop and a MAC laptop computer keyboard

Asia Pacific Photobook Archive used a knotted wood plank background for quite a while then, the floor of their old space and then confused us all by using every background imaginable.


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Can’t walk past a second-hand bookshop – or bookshop markdown table without feeling a twinge to look inside

The anticipation of being rewarded with wondrous things is such a strong motivator

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Spending more than you can afford building your library

The anxiety of photobook collectors was certainly shaken by a FB post from the State Library of Victoria about Karl Largerfield’s personal library. I suppose it comes down to getting one’s priorities right when it comes to collecting and personal finances.


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Gotta make sure I’ve got the dates of the next Art Book Fair locked-in to my diary

Were you one of the 16,000 who went to the Melbourne Art Book Fair? If you weren’t there you probably heard and read about how amazing it was. Now you don’t want to miss out on the next one… Well, the ‘Sydney Volume 2015 – Another Art Book Fair’ is on in 2 weeks…


Lifeline book sales are marked on your calendar


The Benjamin Effect!!

Photobook collectors will feel a connection with Walter Benjamin and his essay on ‘I’m unpacking my library’. In it he states ‘Of the customary modes of acquisition, one of the most appropriate to a collector would be the borrowing of a book with its attendant non-returning.’[i]

But there are ways more desperate than that – stealing books. A significant photobook identity recently admitted that his last resort to save his favourite book from being held in library limbo by committing an act of ‘Bibliokleptomania’.

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Benjamin also has something that any PBX sufferer can take heed of and that is: ‘Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method.’[ii] And that must inspire those inflicted with PBX to go and make a book of their own…


Antidotes / To Feed or Cure

  • Reviewing your social media strategy – set your FB preferences to ensure you get ‘Notifications’ and that your selected ‘Friends’ are listed as ‘Family’;
  • De-friend people who post what they ate for breakfast or pics of their cat – unless the cat is reading a book!   (FB Friend Judy Barass posted this as a response to this point);
  • Find new FB Friends – sources of quality information – like Harvey Benge, Stockdale’s The Photobook Blog, Foam, Dazedigital.com, Selfpublishbehappy.com, and Remote Photobooks for what’s happening in New Zealand;
  • Develop equity in social media: Giving = Getting. That is ‘Like’ things that you like, ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’ things adding your own comment to make it interesting for you FB Friends;
  • Don’t just ‘lurk’ on FB otherwise things that you may be interested in will disappear from your Newsfeed as FB may think that you to not engage with the content;
  • Looking at allied book disciplines like artists’ books and zines;
  • Sharing your books – I’ll give you mine if you give me yours. I’ll buy yours if you buy mine;
  • Donate and contribute to photobook archives like the Indie Photobook Archive and the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive;
  • Grow your local – connect with events and people doing things in your region;
  • Lobby art institutions, libraries and criticism networks for more photobook content; and
  • Become an active advocate for photobooks.


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In conclusion

Ultimately it’s hopeless and PBX sufferer must give in to their base desires and needs and participate with energy, vigour and indifference to other aspects of your life….


Finally: A thought from John Waters…..


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Thank You – And – SEE YOU ONLINE….


BIFB PSC Symposium logo


Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting.” Translated by Harry Zohn. In Illuminations, 69-82. New York: Schocken Books, 2007. Reprint, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1968.

[i] Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting.” Translated by Harry Zohn. In Illuminations, 69-82. New York: Schocken Books, 2007. Reprint, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1968. P62

[ii] ibid p61



PHOTO EXHIBITIONS @ The Ballarat Int’l Foto Biennale

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Doug Spowart foto ©2015

Looking at Andrew Campbell’s astro worlds


When visiting the Ballarat International Foto Biennale you very quickly find out that photography is a diverse and amazing communicative medium for storytelling, information transfer and as interior decoration. The 100 or more exhibitions cover walls in and around Ballarat in places as austere as the Ballarat Art Gallery, to classic Victorian halls and buildings and boutique coffee shops. Most exhibition spaces are within walking distance of the centre of town so the visitor becomes a foto flaneur…


This was out 3rd BIFB, in 2009 we were part of the Core Program with our Borderlines exhibition at the Post Office Gallery, so it was easy for us to slip into the exhibition walking process. I might say, it rained – or drizzled, as usual. It was cold, as usual. But people encountered along the way – old friends, new acquaintances were past of the ‘as usual’ BIFB experience.

Presented below are some images from the streets of Ballarat. What follows are some images of exhibitions seen. Occasional and brief comments about the shows, (some from the program), will be given as well as a link to the BIFB Program. Get there if you can —- there’s still weeks to go with workshops, talks and tours to add to the exhibitions.

A wrap-up report posted by the BIFB Committee is available HERE




BALLARAT: the view from the street


Doug Spowart photo ©2015Doug Spowart foto ©2015Doug Spowart foto ©2015Doug Spowart foto ©2015Doug Spowart foto ©2015Doug Spowart foto ©2015


We began @ Sam Harris’ exhibition – The Middle of Somewhere



Sam HArris' 'The Middle of Somewhere' Post office Gallery

Sam Harris’ ‘The Middle of Somewhere’ Post Office Gallery

It was interesting to see the translation of book images into the space of the white walled gallery.


The Mining Exchange exhibition area - @ a very quiet time...

The Mining Exchange exhibition area – @ a very quiet time…


Part of David Williams' exhibition alcoves

Part of David Williams’ exhibition alcoves

A portrait of me made by David in the 1990s as 'The Cardinal'

A portrait of me made by David in the 1990s as ‘The Cardinal’

Some great conceptual portrait work by a true master of portraits – David Williams


Alejandro Chaskielberg's 'La Creciente'

Alejandro Chaskielberg’s ‘La Creciente’

Alejandro Chaskielberg's 'La Creciente'

Alejandro Chaskielberg’s ‘La Creciente’

A paraguayan immigrant travels together with an argentinian islander, who is his employer. They are loading 3 tons of Willows, taking them to the principal port of the Delta in order to sell the wood.

A Paraguayan immigrant travels together with an Argentinian islander, who is his employer. They are loading 3 tons of Willows, taking them to the principal port of the Delta in order to sell the wood.

An amazing exhibition of large format photography with images taken under moonlight conditions. Although the photographer claims that no flash or other lighting is used in his work …


Stephen Dupont's Piksa Niugini : Portraits and Diaries

Stephen Dupont’s ‘Piksa Niugini : Portraits and Diaries’

Dupont covers the walls of the gallery with a panoramic portrait of New Gineau tribes men and women. His ‘hold up the sheet’ separates the subject from the background which would imply a purely ethnographic recording. Now the subjects become art…


Leon Bird 'Mrs Patronis Guest House'

Leon Bird ‘Mrs Patronis Guest House’

Leon Bird

Leon Bird

Jane Long's 'Dancing With Costica'

Jane Long’s
‘Dancing With Costica’

The Dancing with Costica series initially came about when I decided to brush up on my retouching skills. After finding the Costica Acsinte Archive on Flickr I became fascinated with the images and their subjects. I wanted to bring them to life. But more than that I wanted to give them a story (from the catalogue).

AN amazing exhibition of not just Photoshop technique but more importantly the conceptual construction of narratives and haunting places for these subjects to inhabit and live on…


Silvi Glattauer holding a gravure plate of an image from ‘Organic Balance’

Silvi Glattauer holding a gravure plate of an image from ‘Organic Balance’

One of Silvi's gravures

One of Silvi’s gravures

Some beautiful images enhanced by the best way to make photographic images – Gravure…!

BLURB's 'One for the book' Photobook Award display in Trades Hall

BLURB’s ‘One for the book’ Photobook Award display in Trades Hall

20 Books from around the world were selected as finalists for this award – some interesting works including one of my own…  It’s a public vote to select a winner —Vote for mine!!!


The St Patricks exhibition hall

The St Patricks exhibition hall

Boryana Katsorova's 'Freezing'

Boryana Katsorova’s

The exceptionally cold weather and snowstorms that hit Europe in February 2012, caused traffic chaos, road closures, straining emergency services, grounding flights and pushing the death toll past 300 people and left entire villages cut off. I have documented this event in my series ‘Freezing’ capturing the distant stares of passengers (from the catalogue).


Michelle Vannier's 'Car Graveyard'

Michelle Vannier’s
‘Car Graveyard’


Thomas Kellner 'Genius Loci – Two German Gentlemen of Siegen in the Land of the Tsars'

Thomas Kellner
‘Genius Loci – Two German Gentlemen of Siegen in the Land of the Tsars’

Film-based mosaics – each full width of the subject being a 24 exposure film. Individual frames are ‘wiggled’ to deconstruct the real subject. A detailled plan of each image’s deconstruction is shown alongside the finished work.


Amber McCraig's 'Americana Now'

Amber McCraig’s ‘Americana Now’

Astronomical Society of Victoria's ‘Wonders of the Universe Exposed’

Astronomical Society of Victoria’s
‘Wonders of the Universe Exposed’

A stellar exhibition by the astronomers with cameras – Include work by our telescope here Andrew Campbell.


Marie Watt ‘After the Rush’

Marie Watt ‘After the Rush’

Marie Watt’s series After the Rush uses infrared photography to emphasise the atmospheric solitude of the lesser known gold rush sites – in a bid to remind us of a wider vibrant, though harsher, past (from the catalogue).


An exhibition in a coffee shop...

An exhibition in a coffee shop…


OH!! It was such a busy couple of days…




DOUG to speak @ Ballarat Foto Biennale Symposium

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Photobook Anxiety graphic

Photobook Anxiety graphic

On August 29 I’ll be speaking at the Symposium: Borderless Futures, Reimaging the Citizen which is taking place at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale. The speakers program is amazing with presentations relating to the topic of the symposium.

My presentation is entitled PHOTOBOOK ANXIETY: SOCIAL MEDIA AND INDIE PUBLISHING and the abstract is as follows:


The photobook is at the core of a self-publishing revolution. The structure of the old publishing and bookselling paradigm is now reshuffled and redesigned. Now every photographer wants to make their own books – they need the inspiration found in the latest photobooks and to be informed by the movers and shakers of the discipline.


As a result there is an emerging heightened anxiety for personal connection with pulse of this worldwide phenomena. Social media is the communication vehicle of choice. Everyday participants in the photobook network frenetically seek updates, reviews, new releases, post about their books and the latest gossip through social media channels – this anxiety is palpable.

This paper will discuss the frisson of social media as a powerful tool for communication and community building in the indie publishing movement of photobooks.


HERE’S THE LINK TO THE PROGRAM AND TO BOOK – Check out the BIFB Program as well:



BIFB PSC Symposium logo

BIFB PSC Symposium logo


Hope to see you there….



JOHN CATO Exhibition & Book Launch: Ballarat Int’l Foto Biennale

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Attendees @ the John Cato exhibition opening and book launch


As photographers we all have special memories of those who inspired and nurtured our early interest in the medium. For some, teachers made a difference, and are forever remembered–even revered as heroes. None, or maybe only a few, have the reputation of John Cato. Working in the hallowed institution the Prahran College of Advanced Education in halcyon era of the 1970s and 80s Cato taught/mentored some of Australia’s most significant contemporary photographers. Names like Bill Henson, Nino Martinetti, Steven Lojewski, Polly Borland, Kim Corbel, James McArdle, Christopher Koller, Andrew Chapman and Julie Milowick were all Cato’s students.



Andrew Chapman addresses the attendees


James McArdle, who studied at Prahran with Chapman, Henson and Milowick in 1974-76, had this to say about Cato:

… in my memory John was a teacher determined to seek out the aptitudes and endowments of each student who came before him; his teaching and mentorship involved a deep empathy with each student’s approach. He was almost clairvoyant in being able to very quickly identify one’s strengths and it was on those he would concentrate, unafraid to express criticism; but only in terms of how a certain fault might detract from a strength. Such was his positive and affirming approach to teaching, and consequently we have each been left a different and very personal perception of what he valued in photography.

At the 2013 Ballarat International Foto Biennale an exhibition and the launch of a book on Cato’s work pay respect and homage to the man. In the afternoon of the opening day of the BIFB a gathering of past students and friends participated in the formalities of the event. Key presenters included Paul Cox, Andrew Chapman and Julie Milowick who told of their experiences of Cato and eulogised the influence that he has had on their photography. Well-known Melbourne ArtBlart blogger and commentator on photography Dr Marcus Bunyan presented an opening address and lamented the lack of recognition for Cato’s work and philosophical approach to photography and teaching. These sentiments seemed to be shared by the gathered audience. Bunyan’s address is available HERE.





The book, John Cato Retrospective, is a significant record of the scope of Cato’s work and includes essays from a number of photographic commentators. At $20 the book is modestly priced considering the weight and value of its contents. Edited by Paul Cox and Bryan Gracey – Copies of the book can be purchased from the BIFB office or online through the publishers HERE.


two of the John Cato exhibition rooms @ BIFB

Two of the John Cato exhibition rooms @ BIFB


The exhibition filled a number of bays in the Ballarat Mining Exchange and included a video entitled Between Sunshine and Shadow – John Cato was produced by David Callow and Andrew Chapman and can be viewed below …



Examples of John Cato’s photographs can be viewed on the dedicated website http://www.johncato.com.au


The event concluded with book signings and conversations between the guests – no doubt excited about the respect paid to this significant Australian photographer and teacher of photography and life …


Doug Spowart




John Cato Website


From Paul Isbel



Alison Stieven Taylor from: The Australian August 10, 2013



Terry Lane from The Age August 22, 2013





Photos © 2013 Doug Spowart,


Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

The photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




JACKIE RANKEN @ BIFB: Doug’s catalogue essay

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Jackie Ranken's BIFB show

Jackie Ranken’s BIFB show


Jackie Ranken has a huge show at the 2013 Ballarat International Foto Biennale –

I was privileged to write the catalogue essay …



Jackie’s BIFB Catalogue pages


Egg Poacher

Egg Poacher



Jackie Ranken: far-flung – home and away

The call to photograph demands a photographer to react with spontaneity, vigour and intuition to record the observed moment. As they go into the world and seek out subjects of interest to make into photographs their operational mode could probably be described as that of the hunter-gatherer. Photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Ansel Adams, Faye Godwin, Helen Levitt, William Eggleston and Martin Parr have shaped the history of photography using this mode of working. The quest undertaken by these hunter-gatherer photographers is to capture from the world something that is invisible or unseen in everyday life.

Then there are other photographers that are not content with just photographing what is before them, and as such are compelled to create their own realities to photograph. These constructed tableaux can combine disparate elements that may never have physically or metaphorically co-existed, presenting visual challenges and conundrums to those who look at these photo-fictions.

Australian born photographer Jackie Ranken, now living in New Zealand, is somewhat a photographic chameleon as she can manoeuvre between the two image-making styles with ease. Regardless of her mode of working Ranken’s photographs consistently present new and unique images of the world to inform, surprise and inspire the minds of the both the photo-specialist and public audiences.

The body of work that first brought Jackie Ranken to national prominence was a series of aerial photographs reinterpreting the Australian pastoral landscape. Ranken made these images precariously strapped into a Gypsy Moth bi-wing aircraft flown by her father. Aerobatic manoeuvres were required so that a straight-down view could be imaged without wing tips and struts. The result of these hair-raising flights was tightly composed photographs of landform details. Devoid of the references of perspective and horizon that viewers usually need to make sense of the landscape, these images presented visual cryptic patterns of the land rendered as geometric, non-representational shapes–patterns of cattle and sheep tracks, fence lines and the twist of a stream’s course. The viewer metaphorically flies above unfamiliar terrains visually seduced by the intricate beauty of these abstract landforms.

While this body of work may fit comfortably with the idea of the hunter-gatherer photographic mode, Ranken also purposefully constructed a space for her images to be created. She was not a casual observer waiting for the moment to capture her subject, but rather she provoked the landscape to reveal itself through her unusual viewpoint and representation.

The chameleon photographer that is Jackie Ranken has embraced many of the more traditional genres of photography including press photography, photodocumentary and travel or destination photography. Always present in her photography is an edginess that takes the viewer into new and exciting visual territory and the body of work presented in this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale is no exception. In her Kitchen Stories and other realities Ranken employs the New Zealand landscape as a stage in which many players or objects are cast. The landscape backgrounds selected by Ranken are often in themselves places of natural beauty – snow-capped mountains, barren grassy hills and clear watered lakes … until the landscape’s seemingly still and quiet nature is interrupted by flying objects that come across the field of view and grab the viewer’s attention. These unexpected and incongruous objects, now frozen in time and space, hover motionless over a monochrome landscape. An antique aluminium two-egg steamer pops up before a rustic country shack in field of tussock grass. In another image, located on a beach a drop-sided toaster and power cord snake serpent-like across the foreground perhaps as the Manaia[1] of New Zealand Māori culture.

Flying Toaster

Flying Toaster


The design of the objects, their attitude in flight or physical placement in the frame, often imply a face in particular–the eyes, but as you allow imagination to take hold other features emerge. Robotic, alien (from outer space), drone-like apparatus and contraptions appear. In some images the similarity of object and location seem to connect with some kind of loose logic. Aluminium rice steamers have landed on earth and attempt to mimic the Moeraki Boulders behind them–hoping, maybe, to go unnoticed. Yet in other photographs, such as ones in which forks, with tines pointed skyward, emulate a miniature steely massed forest.

Moeraki Rice Cookers

Moeraki Rice Cookers


The mysterious presence in Ranken’s photographs is further enhanced by her warm tone, sepia treatment of the images. Adding to the visual presentation of the photographs is the use of a dark border and veil-like texture screen. These techniques enable the normal colour and tone rendition of the subject to be transformed into an image that invokes fleeting memories and dreams. Anecdotes in the author’s own hand surround the image to recount Ranken’s connection with the object and the circumstances of the photo-making encounter.

Through the visual narrative of Kitchen Stories and other realities, Ranken constructs visual communiqués to connect the viewer with their memories and experiences and to encourage a heightened awareness of the ordinary things that surround their everyday life. In the captured ephemeral moments of flight Ranken presents the viewer with an opportunity to contemplate these objects of everyday experience. Ranken comments in her artist’s statement, that the Zen philosophy of Shibui informs her approach to life, and therefore she seeks to create images that present glimpses of a world where beauty can be found in simple and mundane objects.

What meaning should the viewer take from this? Are Ranken’s flung kitchenalia also a personal rebellion against homecraft and the traditional expectations of the housewife? Could it be a fascination with flight? Or is it that Ranken is a visual provocateur? In her artist’s statement the latter seems to be her strategy and it’s up to us to make sense of these incongruous apparitions. At first there may be a resistance to engage beyond the whimsical nature of the work. But these photographs deserve close and extended viewing, if not only to satisfy our curiosity for what has been presented to us, but also for what we may discover about ourselves, and the connections we make with the world.


Dr Doug Spowart

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manaia_%28mythological_creature%29

BIOG: Doug Spowart is an artist, photographer, lecturer and artists’ bookmaker. With over 30 years continuous involvement in his art practice he has exhibited widely and his work is included in major gallery and library collections. Spowart has a PhD with his main research interests in both the photobook and social media.




Photos © 2013 Jackie Ranken and Doug Spowart,  installation photo


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


Written by Cooper+Spowart

August 22, 2013 at 9:39 am


with 2 comments




BIFB visitors checking out the book award entries



Doug’s book – front right


A display of some of the best self-published photobooks in the country are being exhibited at the 2013 Ballarat International Foto Biennale.


The Ballarat International Foto Biennale with major sponsor Blurb, present ‘One for the Books’ an exciting new prize celebrating the book as an innovative and contemporary format for presenting photography in a creative and narrative form. This prize is specifically for self publish, print on demand books. Books previously published by a traditional publishing house are not eligible for entry.


The 2013 ‘One for the Books’ Prize will accept submissions for two categories; Professional and Amateur.  Winners will be announced at on Monday 19th August 2013 at the Post Office Gallery, Ballarat. Entrants must be Australian residents. Around 100 books were submitted for the judging and 20 finalists were selected.


The finalists [professional category]
Charles KLEIN SA

The finalists [amateur category]
John Paul AZIZ & Shaun DUNCAN VIC



At a special event on Monday August 19th the announcement of the winners of the inauguaral One for the books prize was announced.



Charles Klein’s Awarded Book – Professional Category

Dadslides is a book dealing with a personal sense of nostalgia in the discovery of one’s own family photographs after the passing of a loved one. Klein’s book consisted of his father’s slides made between 1950 and 1981. The photos were scanned and sequenced within the book to create a document of a family growing up, going on holidays, messing around in the back yard and the other things that symbolise Australian life in this era. Strangely, whilst the book is about Charles Klein’s family, it strikes a resonance with us all and therein lies the beauty and the power of its narrative.

SEE THE BLURB REVIEW HERE: Charles Klein’s Awarded book



Erin Stonestreet’s Awarded Book – Amateur Category

Air & Earth: The view from 30,000 ft is a book that deals with the aerial view of the earth. The rich colours and image juxtaposition create for the viewer an abstract view – all scale is abandoned and the images take on a sense of the magical, and perhaps even for some, a spiritual meaning.

SEE THE BLURB REVIEW HERE: Erin Stonestreet’s book


I was excited to be a finalist in the award – Here is my book…


Doug's Cover

Doug’s Finalists Book

My book deals with the political scene and is a parody of the potential for government agencies and politicians to do absurd things for, as they call it, ‘the good of the people’.




PLEASE ENJOY – And do get to Ballarat to see these amazing books in person …

And join in on the photobook print-on-demand revolution.



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