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PHOTO TREASURE: The QCPs ‘Treasures: The art of collecting’

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REVIEW: Treasures: The art of collecting


I’m an obsessive collector. It’s a big problem because I’m finding it difficult to store everything …  

Martin Parr talking about his book collection 1.

Peter Milne's portrait of Nick Cave reflects visitors to the Treasures show

Peter Milne’s portrait of Nick Cave reflects visitors to the Treasures show


Collecting photographs and collecting collections is the subject of the current exhibition at the Queensland Centre of Photography. 72 photographic works on loan from 23 collections both significant and personal, fill the exhibition space. The works represent a wide selection of the history of the medium, the range of themes pursued by photographers and the stuff that collectors collect.

The exhibition was curated by QCP Director Maurice Ortega and was drawn from the contacts, colleagues and members of the QCP fraternity. Works from significant collectors like Daryl Hewson and Fred Hunt were prominently featured in the show. Other works came from the QCP’s own collection, many of which have interesting provenance, were gifts to the Centre, or to members of QCP photography fair delegations travelling overseas.

Each work has a unique story not only of the photograph’s making but also of the collector’s possession and the story of ownership. To pass on these dual narratives each work is accompanied by a comprehensive didactic panel that provides a connection with why the work was collected and its meaningfulness for the collector.

QCP floor talk by Director Maurice Ortega

QCP floor talk by Director Maurice Ortega


On Sunday 14th April Maurice Ortega gave a floor talk about the Treasures. He discussed the idea and practice of collecting generally and then walked through the space drawing attention to selected works–their owners and any special stories around their provenance.

Ortega spoke of the importance of collectors and how they can support artists at all levels of their careers. He noted that in Australia so many art photographers make a fine start in their professional practice but so often slip from view due to the inability for them to derive sufficient income to survive. He lamented the lack of a passion for collecting within Australia citing the success of the American scene. A video presentation in the gallery shows, as an example, the collection of Steven Reinstein and it’s presentation within a home. It is a grand statement about how ‘amazing’ the personal accumulation of art can be.

QCP floor talk by Director Maurice Ortega

QCP floor talk by Director Maurice Ortega

In Ortega’s catalogue statement he pays great respect to the collector by stating that:

… collectors of every kind should be celebrated and emulated; first for directly supporting the artist, second for maintaining cultural diversity and thirdly for keeping art thoroughly democratic by keeping it grounded on its domestic domain, that of everyday life.

The Treasures exhibition may be a significant look into the art of collecting but it has many other valuable outcomes. It presents to visitors an array of photographic materials, techniques, themes and makers, the like of which has not been shown in this region for some time. It highlights the importance of collection and possession and the link that it provides for a supporting structure within art photography. And it must also surprise the viewer of the exhibition with the spectacular range of art photography that exists out in the wilds of the private collector.

Furthermore this exhibition is a curatorial tour de force and is an example of the significant role that the QCP plays within Queensland–perhaps even Australia, in the provision of true and relevant exhibitions of what the art of photography is, and what can be…


Dr Doug Spowart

For images and more details of the exhibition SEE http://www.qcp.org.au/exhibitions/current/album-791/28

A personal postscript: Like Martin Parr I’m an obsessive collector of photographs, photographica, photobooks and photo ephemera. I was asked by Maurice for a piece from my collection for the Treasures show–I selected a calotype print made from a Henry Fox Talbot negative c1843. Printed by author, historian and Kodak Museum Curator Brian Coe in 1976. The provenance of the photograph was that it was an award won by me in the Kodak International of Photography in that year. Due to difficult display requirements it was decided not to include the work in the Treasures show.

W H Fox Talbot print from negative (1845) made by Brian Coe.

1. Badger, G 2003, Collecting Photography, Mitchell Beazley Ltd., London.


Images of the exhibition installation and text by Doug Spowart .

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