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Posts Tagged ‘Max Dupain

DOCUMENT MAKING IN METROPOLIS

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Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

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Vicky and I were in Sydney last week. It is a Big city, lots of things to see and do, festivals; Vivid, Headon and Reportage, people everywhere with phones, iPads and DSLRs shooting. We joined in the photo foray that is Sydney and found in ourselves – and in our subjects, a connection with Australian documentary photography that threaded from Parke’s glowing ghost-light, to Dupain and Moore’s modernist clean lines and then all the way back to Cazneaux’s warm pictorialist pictures. These connections with the history of photography were warm and fuzzy for me and gave a feeling of confidence, comfort and purpose for my engagement with image making.

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I began to think about photography and photographers today, particularly the often cited us and them divide between those who have a significant history, both professional and academic in photography, and those who pick up a camera, or use their smart imaging device and just take pictures.

Questions arose – I’ll use the terms vernacular and serious to distinguish my discussion of these two groups:

  • Does a sense of history and experience in photography really make a difference to the ‘quality’ of the resulting image?
  • There is a lot of hype and acceptance of the snapshot ethic within photography circles – so what is the difference when between a serious and a vernacular snapshot photo?
  • Is the general public today more astute about image design, content, moment of capture than serious photographers choose to give them credit for?
  • Is there any difference in the workflow between serious photographers and those ubiquitous vernacular snappers? Isn’t photography still about; having access to imaging technology>looking/seeing/experiencing the world>responding to visual triggers>readying the imaging device>considering it in the viewscreen>take the picture at a selected time/timing> and then doing something with it?
  • Does it make a difference if the vernacular photographer engages in a spontaneous act of self-documentation and the serious photographer engages in the process with a methodology that which is informed by a past lived in photography and the appreciation of the underpinning awareness of the photoimaging process, technology, visual literacy and human sociology?
  • Are both the vernacular and the serious photographer’s images ultimately the result of the assimilation of every studied or subliminal idea and visual influence that they have encountered?

On these days in Sydney I made my photographs, as did thousands of other photographers who shared my interest in using the photograph, or the very act of photography, to ‘still’ a moment in time. But are there other synergies at play? The philosopher Wilém Flusser might an alternate view on what photographer, vernacular and serious alike. In his book, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000) Flusser proposes that everyone using photography is essentially being seduced by the camera and its ‘program’. He states:

Both those taking snaps and documentary photographers, however, have not understood ‘information.’ What they produce are camera memories, not information, and the better they do it, the more they prove the victory of the camera over the human being. (Flusser 2000:59)

Perhaps then, if Flusser is right, we have no say in the process at all and that we are merely slaves to the technology. With that in mind, I guess I’ll just continue to make ‘camera memories’ so that the camera and I can connect with the times, and the places, that we shared together …

Doug Spowart       8 June 2013

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SOME CAMERA MEMORIES OF THE METROPOLIS

My Olympus Pen & me: May 27-30, 2013

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Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

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All  photographs by my Olympus Pen whose ‘program’ made me take the photos….

© Doug Spowart 2013.

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

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75 Years: Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

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Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Panorama

Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, the oldest regional art gallery in Queensland, this month celebrated its 75th year of operation. When we consider that Queensland only recently celebrated its sesquicentennial therefore the gallery is half the age of Queensland itself! Other interesting dates; the Toowoomba region was settled in the 1840s and was proclaimed a city in 1904 The Toowoomba Show Society recently achieved a milestone of 142 years of shows in agriculture and industry and the Empire theatre celebrated its 100th birthday last year. It seems that the Toowoomba region was well and truly fired up as a community and perhaps overdue for an art gallery that was finally established in 1937.

The records show that various Governors of Queensland were associated with TRAG over the years and this association continues to this day with the current Governor Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley opening the 75th exhibition on July 2, 2012. In an impressively researched speech Governor Wensley recounted newspaper reports of the day relating to the gallery’s foundation. The 75th opening was attended by around 100 members of the local community including Mayor Paul Antonio, various councillors and members of the trustees or families of significant donors to the gallery.

Gallery Curator Di Baker with Governor Wensley discussing artworks

The exhibition features 75 individual artworks from the gallery’s collection—one for each of the 75 years. Standing in the middle of the main exhibition area one sees a diverse range of visual material. Paintings of bygone and contemporary eras by some very prominent artists, there are ceramics, fine jewellery (from the gallery’s principle collection media—contemporary wearables), and finally photographs and prints complete the veritable visual cornucopia on show. When I came to testing my recollection of the artwork’s titles and artists I was stumped, as the artwork didactics bore none of that information. This presented some confusion until I became aware the curatorial strategy for the show. The 75 works were selected on the basis of the year and the work’s conceptual connection with significant social, political or historical aspects of that year. The key to the sometimes quirky and idiosyncratic curatorial selection is the exhibition catalogue in which the rationale for the selection is linked with the title, media and the artist’s name.

While at first this seems a little strange my reflection on the concept confirms, for me at least, that the strategy is conceptually stimulating. The usual gallery exhibition is about artists and their art—this show IS about the gallery, its PLACE in the community and TIME, or rather the passage of time—75 years in fact. In this exhibition the gallery then assumes the position of ‘artist’ and were the ‘artwork’ is the curatorial team’s strategy.

Doyen of Toowoomba’s photo scene Graham Burstow with a Max Dupain photograph in the exhibition

Bravo to the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and the team for bringing to us an exhibition featuring the gems of art from its collection that can tell these multiple stories. One, which is about the assiduous collection by the gallery of art stimulated by and/or created by the regional community. And secondly, this show provides recognition of significant art from outside Toowoomba that has been generously donated by benefactors over the years. Through the gallery display of these artworks the local community is able to connect with these wonderful touchstones of artists’ creative practice.

A visit to TRAG to see this show will require much more engagement than usual walk-through, so do plan for extended visits while the 75th year celebration show is on.

SEE more info Toowoomba Regional Council website

Doug Spowart  8 July 2012

Doug next to his photograph of Ruthven Street selected for the exhibition

IAN POOLE: AIPP On the Lounge

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Ian Poole addressing the audience @ Photo Frenzy

Ian Poole is well placed to have an opinion about fine art photography and collecting photographs. He has been a major player in professional photography in Brisbane for nearly 40 years and is a respected AIPP judge with yearly invitations to also judge the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography awards. Despite his professional photography connection he has been a part of a sector of the Queensland photographic art scene that extends from the early 1980s with Imagery Gallery, later with the Photographer’s Gallery and more recently with the Queensland Centre for Photography. He has completed a Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts from the Queensland College of Art and has been awarded an Australia Council residency in Tokyo. Adding to this he has curated photographic exhibitions in Japan (of Queensland photographers) and exhibitions in Australia (of local and Japanese photographers).

So when Poole offers commentary on aspects of the photographic art world of Brisbane and Queensland it should be something of an opportunity to connect with his extensive knowledge of the genre. Recently as part of the AIPP ‘On the Lounge’ lecture series Ian Poole presented to an assembled audience of around 40 a dissertation entitled, ‘Have you ever wanted to collect photographic art, or be collected as a photographic artist?’

Ian – getting his message across with passion

Ian Poole began his presentation by reviewing recent art auction records for photographic artworks including those by Adams, Sexton and Dupain. Thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions will change hands for well-known and rare works. The recent phenomena of Nick Brandt’s African work,which had been shown only weeks earlier in Brisbane, attracted some discussion. Perhaps some in the audience felt a little inspired by the possibility that, if they could enter the fine art field, that there was recognition and the possibility for a significant income to be made.

Poole introduced his collection of images that were hung on the walls and laid out on tables before the audience and discussed their histories and stories. For him the concept of ‘provenance’ elevated the importance of each work. A small Dupain image of the interior of the National Gallery in Canberra made during its construction was linked to his encounter with the work in a Brisbane gallery where it was purchased for a few hundred dollars. His most exuberant discussion related to a Joachim Froese diptych acquired when he swapped it with Joachim for a 4×5 enlarger. An expanded provenance trail led to it being loaned back to Joachim so that it could be displayed a QUT exhibition of his work.

A long-term friendship with north Queensland photographer Glen O’Malley presented some interesting provenance stories. O’Malley is not fully recognised for the significance of his practice in Queensland – he could probably claim to have had the first ‘photographic art’ exhibition in this state in the mid 1970s. Poole presented to the audience an image from O’Malley made as part of the Queensland Art Gallery’s 1988 Journeys North commission. The 20×24” black and white photograph showed a scene in Poole’s home where the O’Malleys were having dinner. The image was part of the accepted images for the Journeys North show and was subsequently published. Somehow Poole’s own life had become art photography itself.

Another photography collaborator presented by Poole was John Elliott. Well known for his documentation of country and western music and its heroes and doyens including Slim Dusty, Chad Morgan and Jimmy Little, Elliott is an enigmatic character of the photography scene. Ian spoke of John’s most recent show Gifted Country at the Caboolture Regional Art Gallery and his photobook publishing ventures. A recent journey to Townsville that Poole had shared with another of Queensland’s enigmatic photographers, Maris Rusis, resulted in a body of work by Rusis that dealt with the décor of budget north Queensland motel rooms. These small and fine gelatin silver fibre B&W prints presented to the audience the fact that traditional values remain key to some workers who continue to practice analogue photography in a digital world.

Question time brought up some difficult truths – Why does the Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA not seem to be collecting photography generated within this state? Did they ever collect? Some discussion related to the archival needs for conservation framing and presentation.

As a conclusion to the presentation Poole spoke of the way in which he and his photography acquaintances swapped and shared their works, and how much of his collection was built around the generosity of fellow photographers and their desire to share. He held a bundle of his own gelatin silver images up before the audience and made an offer that ‘you can have one of my prints this evening – and send a print to me as a swap. Start your collection this evening …’

While Ian Poole began his presentation with a review of the overtly mercantile auction scene, it seemed that his passion about photography, photographs, friends, shared experiences and the meaningfulness of the provenance of the works, that these things could not be commodified. He spoke of his collection of photos, books and ephemera as being an entity that would be bequeathed to his daughter Nicola, also a photographer and present at the talk. Through the audience he directed to Nicola to ‘treasure and look after these things … they were important, valuable – not only as the stories they depicted through their image on the front-side of the print, but also of the back-story of their origin and collection.’

There is no doubt that Ian Poole’s passion for photography and his understanding of how it operates at a personal and cultural level is something that was shared and communicated on this evening. And those present will be inspired to develop a new appreciation of what photographs are and what they can say about the human condition.

Doug Spowart  May 20, 2012

Ian talking with OTL attendees at the end of his presentation

An unusual meeting – Face-to-Face with an early portrait of one’s self – circa 1982 found in Poole’s collection

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