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PHOTOBOOK INDEPENDENT: Our books in Hollywood – thanks to QCP

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Photo Independent poster



As part of its international activities for Queensland and Australian photographers the Queensland Centre for Photography participated in the inaugural Photo Independent art fair at Raleigh Studios, Los Angeles 1–3 May, 2015. The main Australian contingent consists of the wall images of 12 photomedia artists. They are Anna Carey, Belinda Kochanowska, Chris Bowes, David La Roche, Henri van Noordenburg, Kim Demuth, Kelly Hussey-Smith & Alan Hill, Katelyn-Jane Dunn, Lynette Letic, Michael Cook and Marian Drew.


An additional aspect of Photo Independent is one dedicated to the recognition of photographers who work in the book format. Called Photobook Independent the QCP curated a selection of 16 Australian photo publishers to present in the L.A. event.

In QCP media about these two events the following statement was made:

The QCP is excited to be part of this ground-breaking event as the world of photography will set its focus on Los Angeles 1–3 May, 2015 for a weekend celebrating international photography and the most talented image-makers across various genres of the medium. Numerous high profile art fairs including Paris Photo Los Angeles, Photo Contemporary, Photo Independent and PhotoBook Independent will launch their annual editions in Hollywood with additional special photography exhibitions throughout Los Angeles. The weekend promises to offer the enthusiastic art patron a plethora of opportunities to experience photography at its highest calibre.

The photobook publishers were: Ingvar Kenne, Dane Beesley, Anne Ferran, Lindsay Varvari, Rohan Hutchinson, Julie Shiels, Prudence Murphy, Christopher Young, Paul Batt, Ian Tippett, Doug Spowart, Victoria Cooper, Gemma Avery, Michelle Powell, Mathias Heng and Christopher Köller.


Interviews with the artists and photobook makers can be found on the LUCIDA Site: http://lucidamagazine.com/

Biogs on the photobook participants can be seen here: http://qcpinternational.com/portfolios/photo-book-independent-2015/


Pilliga- Cover-new-72

Victoria Cooper’s PILLIGA


About Victoria’s Book: PILLIGA


Pilliga is the culmination of 10 years work. It is informed by the many physical, psychological and metaphorical journeys through this enigmatic place during the decade of its creation.

This book is not a topographic depiction of the Pilliga Scrub, a remote location in the Australian Bush. Rather it is a human story of lurking deep anxiety manifested as a destructive invisible entity feeding on fears of the unknown and unknowable.

A PDF of the book can be seen here:PILLIGA-redsmr

The book can be purchased from BLURB here: http://blur.by/1Q9cGhh



Doug Spowart’s I have inhabited a place …



This book relates to the experience of being a documentary photographer within the world. The subject, a deserted artist’s studio, becomes an immersive landscape for investigation. This photobook expresses a personal narrative about loss, absence, place, and concepts around the relationship between the non-human and the working practices of artists.

A PDF of the book can be seen here: I have inhabited a place …red2

The book can be purchased from AMAZON here: http://blur.by/1K65dMu





Queensland Centre for Photography Continued Arts Qld Funding: A letter to the Minister

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SEE UPDATE ON FUNDING: https://wotwedid.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/qcp-funding-cut-statement-from-the-qcp-board/


Beyond everything else in contemporary life we all need creative stimulation and engagement with things bigger than ourselves – Photography does that better than just about anything else, and the QCP is the most important centre of photographic thought and activity in Queensland, and perhaps even Australia. We need this organisation to be supported by private and public institutions to match the acclaim and recognition that it has rightfully earned through darn hard work and its dedication to artists and those who appreciate the beauty, and the expression, that can be found and shared through the photograph.

The QCP funding provided by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland is about to be reviewed. Over the last few months the QCP and its supporters have been gathering evidence of their activities and the important and necessary service that they provide to photographers and the photographically interested public in Queensland. Despite the support that the QCP gains from private donors, the income derived from exhibitions and publications and other activities, as well as substantial in-kind volunteer support, the additional funding provided by AQ enables so much more to be achieved.

QCP Director Maurice Ortega contacted me in July to provide a personal support letter to the minister – the text of which is listed below. Recently I have received a response from the minister, which I have attached for your information.

You can support the QCP by adding your name to the online petition that is listed below – but be quick, as the numbers need to be tallied soon.






August 6, 2013


The Honourable Ian Walker

Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts

Level 5, Executive Building
100 George Street


Subject: A letter of support for the Queensland Centre for Photography


Dear Minister,

In 1980 I co-founded with my mother Ruby a facility in Brisbane to provide a focus for the people of Queensland who were interested in all facets of photography. This included: exhibitions, their display and curatorship; a training and workshop facility; and a meeting place. The gallery was called Imagery and operated essentially as an artists-run initiative until 1995. The activities of Imagery Gallery were considered so significant that its complete archive was accepted by the State Library of Queensland, and as such, has become part of the history of this state.

In 2004, a proactive group of academics and practitioners, recognising the absence of a dedicated facility like Imagery for the support and development of photography in Queensland, founded the Queensland Centre for Photography (QCP). Over the nine years of operation, the managing team headed by Director Maurice Ortega and Deputy-Director Camilla Birkeland, have developed the QCP into an internationally recognized centre for the art of photography.

The costs associated with the QCP operation not only comes from government grant funding but also through the valuable support of corporate sponsors and the work of an energetic committee of volunteers and interns.

QCP initiatives include the following key programs:

  1. The exhibition program
  2. The educational program
  3. The publication program
  4. The international program
  5. The QCP collection
  6. The biennial Queensland Festival of Photography.

With the biennial Queensland Festival of Photography (QFP) the QCP gathered together a statewide coverage of exhibition venues and the QFP travelling series of lectures and forums placed the organisation’s commitment firmly within the regional space of Queensland. Further to this they have taken Queensland photographers and their works to international venues and gained significant recognition for Queensland themes and stories.

I am a regional artist, a TAFE teacher of photography, a critic and commentator on art and photography, and a member of many photography organizations including the Australian Institute of Professional Photography with service as chair of national subcommittees. It is my opinion that the QCP’s contribution to the practice and art of photography is significant and vital to the fabric of cultural activity and its growth in Queensland.

Photography today is ubiquitous; it permeates every aspect of society, every age group and interest. People employ photography in science, in information and communication technology. Most importantly photography is universally the medium of story telling and the QCP’s activities across the state provide support for Queenslanders to create and present these communiqués to national and international audiences.

The Queensland Centre for Photography has made a proven contribution to the state of Queensland in supporting and fostering the important practice and art that is photography and its contribution to cultural development. I therefore ask that you positively consider the ongoing support funding to enable this important Queensland initiative to continue doing its work for Queenslanders into the future.

Yours faithfully


Dr Doug Spowart  M.Photog, FAIPP, HonFAIPP


Ian Walker -response reQCP


Ian Walkers response

Ian Walker MP response


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 .

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

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


DOUG SPEAKS: Qld Festival of Photography, Toowoomba Forum

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1.30 – 3.00 pm: Panel discussion: Contemporary Photography

Panel: Marian Drew, Ray Cook, Henri van Noordenburg, Doug Spowart and Maurice Ortega


Photography is going through major changes due to digital technologies and the explosion of images used through the internet. This panel questions new and emerging practices in photography and presents visual examples of these developments.

Marian Drew (top), Maurice Ortega, Ray Cook (centre), Henri  van Noordenburg (bottom)

An audience of about 45 drawn from the local photography community attended the forum. Each speaker spoke of the aspects of contemporary art photography that informs their work. Marian discussed works by Camilla Birkland, Deb Mansfield, Kate Bernauer, Jenny Carter White; Ray’s hero was Roger Ballin and he spoke of his experience of the ongoing issues of minority groups like gays in society, Henri spoke of his close work transforming the surface of the image and works by Shirin Neshat, Sebastiaan Bremer. Finally Maurice discussed the international scene and the rise of the constructed image – what I’d call faux-photo or photo-fictions. Question time was led by a fired-up John Elliott challenging the blandness and the falseness of contemporary art photography and the lack of space given the ‘still vibrant’ documentary scene.

Doug Spowart speaking @ the QCP FORUM @ TRAG

My contribution to the forum was a paper that discussed the idea that emergent technologies in production and distribution of photography has made everyone a photographer. For those interested in this commentary on contemporary photography the text is published below…

(formatting is a little changed in WordPress)



At this time, as we find ourselves within the 200th anniversary of the photographic experiments of Wedgewood, Davies, Neipce and, if Geoffrey Batchen is right, a host of other inventors, we are witnessing a transfer of the power of photography from the chosen few to the masses – everyone is now a photographer and the camera-made image synonymous with life itself.

In the 1930s Lazlo Maholy-Nagy saw it coming in his prediction that, ‘a knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the use of the camera and pen alike.’ (Moholy-Nagy 1936:32) Although in the text Moholy-Nagy was discussing the photographic sequence and the emerging moving image, his comments allude to our times and how images have replaced words.

In the 1980s the instant imaging giant Polaroid took the concept further by pronouncing in their advertising that we all needed to, ‘learn to speak Polaroid’ – that is, use images to express ideas and concepts, not words. They suggested the we take a Polaroid SX70 image; it will only take a minute to develop before our eyes, to show the time on a clock, the creama of a freshly expressoed coffee or the smile on a child’s face.

Maholy-Nagy was talking about the way images operate in society, and Polaroid was certainly selling their product to the masses, but in the eras in which these statements were made the photographer was a professional imaging technologist. Sure, making photographs had a wide range of users – vernacular photography was well established, George Eastman and Kodak had ensured that, and amateurs and dilettantes banded together to form camera clubs and societies to pursue pictorial beauty. But ‘real’ photography was carried out by specialists who acted with the passion and pain of religious zealots.

Photographers and their colluding commentators created a pantheon of masters and masterworks. They protected their secret knowledges, skills and dark workings within the fields of optics, chemistry and their cumbersome technologies. In their work they excised meaning from the chaos of time and space, and they served and informed the societies in which they lived. They did something that others could not – they made photographs and had access to the media of newspaper, magazines and books through which their images could be communicated to a mass audience.

We may consider digital technology as a major disruption for photography, however the process of photography has always been challenged and transformed by waves of new technologies as part of its liaison with science and art; photographs on silvered metal mirrors, negatives on glass and paper, celluloid and plastic, monochrome, colour transparency/movies/prints … and most recently, electronic files. Cameras of wood and brass, bellows and focusing cloth, tripod-fixed and handheld, carved from solid metal blocks, molded in carbon fibre and plastic …

What is different about the technology of digital photography today is that instead of maintaining the technological barrier between photographers and other users, it has dissolved and democratised image-making.

Other underlying factors drive the march of digital by satisfying some rather basic human needs. Photography historian and commentator Geoffrey Batchen defines photography as being, ‘a persistent economy of photographic desires and concepts’. He lists within this economy concepts like, ‘nature, knowledge, representation, time, space, observing subject, and the observed object.’  For Batchen photography is about, ‘the desire, conscious or not, to orchestrate a particular set of relationships between these various concepts.’ (Batchen 1999:213) I have no doubt that everyone wants to ‘orchestrate’ an image collection of experiences that are important to them and digital imaging has facilitated just that.

Another commentator on this concept adds to this broader human need to photograph, philosopher Vilem Flusser claims that the,

‘Photographer’s intensions are to inform others and through their photographs to immortalise themselves in the memory of others. For photographers, their concepts (and the ideas signified by these concepts) are the main raisons d’être for taking photographs, and the camera’s program is in the service of these raison d’être.’ (Flusser 2002:46)

Now, with digital technologies everyone can access these opportunities ascribed to the photographer and the image. And this process starts in the making of images using a range of newly developed capture technologies. In the Australian Newspaper of January 29 and 30, 2011, journalist Ross Bilton states, ‘Anyone with an iPhone, and a good eye, can claim to be one of an emerging breed of photographic artist: an [iPhonographer.]’ (Bilton 2011:7)

Once the image is made cheap and easy to use enhancement apps can be employed to make the image look like whatever the photographer wants. These mobile apps ape professional-grade software with the advantage that in one-or-two ‘clicks’ the image can be transformed beyond its optical reality into an aesthetic, esoteric or just plain funny photo. Immediate distribution of the image via phone, tablet or later by computer is so easy.

The nature of the photograph in technical and design aesthetic terms has changed as well. The random carefree snapshot, once the domain of documentary photographers, is now part of the vernacular imaging toolbox. In the hands of the nouveaux digital photographer the snapshot has come to be as seductive and as slick as the advertising photograph of old.

As everyone is now a photographer anyone can be a revered as a master, mentor or critic. As a teacher of photography I have encountered the demise of the history of the process. Now students are more likely to seek feedback from Facebook friends and inspiration from peers encountered online. The tradition and the myth of the discipline have little inspiration for a generation of image-makers hell-bent on making what the can from their experience of life. As with any revolution, some will regress to retro-technology: pinhole, Holgas and Dianas and even Hasselblads and large format – if you can still get film.

Everyone now is an exhibitor through the online technologies of Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, web galleries and Pinterest. The screen of the computer is the gallery wall leaving ‘bricks and mortar’ spaces, perhaps even like this one, to being white cubed mausoleums to the art of the past. Or, to survive, high visitation galleries have become converted into the kind of experience once found in funparks, with slippery-slides, art playgrounds, interactive content – even allowing visitors to use cameras and coffee shops with iPads and everywhere, noisy spaces.

Online downloads brought the music distribution cartels to their knees and expanded opportunities for emerging bands to have an active presence on the world stage. The same is happening now with books and publishing as any photographer can self-publish and self-market using the online services of companies like Blurb and LuLu. In using these technologies photographers are leaving behind the gatekeeping machinery of publishers, distributors and bookshops.

The promulgation of the image through informal independent channels of all forms emancipates both makers and viewers from the control of politicians, commerce and religion. And everyday new opportunities are emerging. In 2011 Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson re-published his documentary book Capitolio in an eBook form and sold copies for tablets and eReaders for a few dollars. In an interview with Nathan Lee Bush, he proposed that it was an experiment in the dual media of the physical book and its virtual ‘equivalent’. He states, ‘I do like the idea of this being a potential model for new media. Time will tell.’ (Bush 2011)

In proposing a philosophy of photography Vilem Flusser put forward many propositions of how and why photography operates. One concept he introduces is that it provides the ‘possibility of freedom’. He states,

‘… in a world dominated by apparatuses; to reflect upon the way in which, despite everything, it is possible for human beings to give significance to their lives in the face of the chance necessity of death. Such a philosophy is necessary because it is the only form of revolution left open to us.’  (Flusser 2000)

Perhaps digital imaging is part of that revolution and we are all contributing to it.


Doug Spowart   27 April, 2012


Batchen, G 1999, Burning with desire : the conception of photography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts.

Bilton, R 2011, ‘iPhoneography’, The Weekend Australian, 29-30 January, 2011.

Bush, NL 2011, Through the looking glass | A pro Photo/Video Blog, Interview: Magnum Photographer Publishes Photobook for iPad, Adorama Rentals, viewed March 31 2011, <http://arcrental.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/interview-magnum-photographer-publishes-photobook-for-ipad/>.

Flusser, V 2000, Towards a philosophy of photography, Reaktion Books Ltd., London.

—- 2002, Writings, vol. 6, Electronic Mediations, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Moholy-Nagy, L 1936, ‘From Pigment to Light’, in Telehor, vol. 1, pp. 32-36.

May 17 – NEW VIDEOs – QCP ALT & Japanese Pinhole Opening

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Uploaded two Video presentations from the Queensland Centre for Photography shows – ALT and Seven Japanese Pinhole Photographers.







Written by Cooper+Spowart

May 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm

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