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DIGGING FOR GOLD: Nocturne Castlemaine+Chewton

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The memorial cairn celebrating the discovery of gold at this place in 1852

The memorial cairn celebrating the discovery of gold at this place in 1852

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For about a month now we have been house-sitting in Chewton in the midlands of Victoria – the locality includes Castlemaine and Bendigo with Daylesford and Ballarat just down the road.

The region is famous for gold that was discovered in 1851 – with three months 30,000 diggers were working the alluvial gold fields. While initially a tent city very quickly buildings for every purpose where built many of which still stand today – although, some could be considered barely standing… Just up the street is The Red Hill Hotel that was built in 1854, the Chewton Town Hall in 1858 and the local post office was first opened in 1857.

By the end of the 1800s underground mining and dredging became the preferred methods to extract the precious metal. Companies that could undertake the industrial, technical and financial backing required replaced the independent digger. Populations shrunk and the architectural legacy of the boom times remained.

We have been out doing some night photography work to extend our Nocturne project further. Our nocturne photographs follow our usual methodology although we have added in the Day/Night duo image concept explored in the recent Nocturne Armidale project.

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Castlemaine: Downes Road industrial scene

Castlemaine: Downes Road industrial scene

We have found that the Castlemaine and Chewton are thriving creative and cultural communities bolstered by artists, academics, writers and adventurers who have moved to this region. You can be surprised who lives around the corner…

 

Chewton Post Office

Chewton Post Office

The Chewton Community & Senior Citizens Centre. At the gate is an amazing life-sized sculpture of Alice Dennis by sculptor Richard Yates.

The Chewton Community & Senior Citizens Centre.
At the gate is an amazing life-sized sculpture of Alice Dennis by sculptor Richard Yates.

Pyrenees Highway and moon rise, Chewton

Pyrenees Highway and moon rise, Chewton

 

Elevation of the Old Castlemaine Jail...

Elevation of the Old Castlemaine Jail…

The 9.35pm to Melbourne leaves the Castlemaine Station...

The 9.35pm to Melbourne leaves the Castlemaine Station…

Castlemaine station detail... Poster says "When it's hot – Trains slow down". It was 41 degrees C max today - the train was running late. It was still 34 degrees when the train left the platform.

Castlemaine station detail… Poster says “When it’s hot – Trains slow down”. It was 41 degrees C max today – the train was running late. It was still 34 degrees when the train left the platform.

 

 

St Mary's Church with shadows

St Mary’s Church with shadows

TOTAL FIRE BAN TODAY - Chewton CFA, Mount Street.

TOTAL FIRE BAN TODAY – Chewton CFA, Mount Street.

You know when you hit the 50kph zone coming into Chewton when you pass the Shell servo ...

You know when you hit the 50kph zone coming into Chewton when you pass the Shell servo …

Just down the side of Mo's Antiques Chewton

Just down the side of Mo’s Antiques Chewton

Castlemaine Post Office – Telstra telephones... who uses them now...?

Castlemaine Post Office – Telstra telephones… who uses them now…?

The Old Castlemaine Jail...

The Old Castlemaine Jail…

Castlemaine Town Hall – lights all out 9.30pm.

Castlemaine Town Hall – lights all out 9.30pm.

Phone Box DUO at the Chewton Post Office

Phone Box DUO at the Chewton Post Office

You could almost write a novel about this Chewton scene...

You could almost write a novel about this Chewton scene…

PHOTO: Cooper+Spowart ©2017

Antique, antique shop Castlemaine

Castlemaine Midland Hotel just over the road from the station. The lights are out ---- Is anybody home...?

Castlemaine Midland Hotel just over the road from the station. The lights are out —- Is anybody home…?

The Chewton Town Hall...

The Chewton Town Hall…

Castlemaine Presbyterian Church

Castlemaine Presbyterian Church

Opposite the Red Hill Hotel DUO

Opposite the Red Hill Hotel DUO

Under the veranda of the Red Hill Hotel

Under the veranda of the Red Hill Hotel

 

Cooper+Spowart – on the nocturne street, Chewton

Cooper+Spowart – on the nocturne street, Chewton

 

 

 

Written by Cooper+Spowart

February 14, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Regional Selfies: Communities and Self-Documentation

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Through documentary photography and social media Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart have explored connections with Place in urban and regional communities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The purpose of these Nocturne Projects is to capture everyday scenes of each community in nocturnal light, dusk and dawn. These images are then posted on a Nocturne project Facebook page to evoke stories, memories and shared experiences from the community.

In each project Spowart and Cooper found different ways to include community participation. In 2014, they were invited to work in Miles, a major town of the Western Downs Region of Queensland. The Nocturne Miles Community Documentary project sought to engage with the broader public to undertake self-documentation projects and skill development in nocturne photography. Both local and temporary residents who enjoy taking photos, as well as those more skilled in photography were all invited to participate. After an initial workshop, Spowart and Cooper mentored the 18 participants to create images for the project including self-portraits and daily assignments and produce Facebook reports and a zine.

 

Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

To begin the project consultations were undertaken with staff from the Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development team Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam at Dogwood Crossing to refine the project to match the needs of their community. Then centre staff sought out members of the community who could be interested in the project. Possible candidates then completed an Expressions of Interest form to provide some information on their experience and the photography tools they had access to e.g. DSLR camera, point and shoot camera, mobile phone or tablet cameras. Another important consideration was that the applicants were going to be in the region during the project to participate in briefings, workshops and shootouts as well as the final day’s zine making activity.

 

Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles

Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles

 

While numbers were limited there was a desire by the artists and Dogwood Crossing that the project accessible to as many participants and be as inclusive as possible. The one proviso was that project participants needed to live and/or work in or near Miles including the smaller surrounding towns or on properties/work camps in the Miles district.

The participants engaged with the project in a variety of different ways including:

  • An initial introduction to the project and skill development workshop;
  • Guided evening photography shoot-outs in the main Street of Miles as well as at the Miles Historic Village;
  • Daily photo tasks over the week of the project assigned through a project Facebook group;
  • Optional mentoring sessions, where required, to enable images to be prepared and uploaded for the project;
  • Display of participants photos to a digital screen at Dogwood Crossing; and
  • A practical ‘zine’ making workshop.

 

Doug doing a briefing

Doug doing a briefing

The project began on Sunday November 30 with an introductory workshop, briefing and a shootout. Progressively images were collated and uploaded to the Nocturne Miles Community Facebook page. Each day a new topic was presented a challenge and their interpretation formed into a photocollage. Communication with the participants was made through a private Facebook group page that enabled hear 24hour contact with participants and Cooper+Spowart. Some participants came into Dogwood Crossing with their photos or with requests for support in making and/or optimising better photographs. On Wednesday evening special access was provided to the Miles Historical Village for group to experiment with ‘painting with light’ and ‘projection’ techniques.

Village_People_7480-72

The Nocturne Miles participants at Miles Historical Village

 

Facebook page

Facebook page

 

Cooper and Spowart added their images to the Facebook page as well and some visitors to the page posted stories about the places pictured. By the project’s end the page had 241 Page Likes, 60 Posts and the Total Reach was 17,771. Both the group page and the community page are still active.

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer

 

Some of the photocollages that formed the 8 page Zines that were made using the Dogwood Crossing’s A3 colour photocopier. These were cut and folded into zines that were inserted into a red and yellow special edition of the Centre for Regional Arts Practice’s Artists Survey Books.

 

Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop

Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop

 

Some of the Photocollages

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical VilliageSelfies – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical Villiage – Nocturne Miles

 

The photocollages presented here are examples of the image sets created by the participants. It is interesting to note that the original images may have emanated from all camera formats fro iPhone, simple digital point-n-shoot to sophisticated DSLRs.

We hear a lot about documentary photographers and student photographers travelling out into the country to create documents of life outside of the metropolis. Once on the ground these photographers seek out subjects to pursue and photograph. In this way significant documents are created of these outlying communities. However, the subject of the of the photographer’s gaze, and what is photographed, is based on the view of ‘outsiders’. The photographs they make may match preconceived ideas, and mythologised opinions, that they bring with them rather than how the people who inhabit these places feel about how and where they live.

What the Nocturne Miles project shows is perhaps that in an age where everyone can be a photographer what is important is the photograph itself. What then stands out the most is the link between the photograph and it’s authenticity. With this in mind these photographs are actual fragments of the lives of local people, whether they are from the farm, or people engaged in extractive industries, or those who work in administration roles or students at school, their voice in this conversation adds another view we can have of our regional communities.

 

The project was undertaken between November 21 and December 7 2014 and was overseen by Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development Coordinator Ashleigh Campbell and Cultural Development Officer Anne Keam. The success of the project was also made possible by the enthusiastic support of the WDRC team at Dogwood Crossing.

 

What follows are more photocollages and individual images from the project

More images are on the Surat Basin.com.au website HERE

Murlilla Street  – Nocturne Miles

Murlilla Street – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles

 

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Text and photos unless otherwise accredited are Copyright ©2014 Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart

 

 

 

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