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A RE-PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT Revisited at TRAG

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Doug in the exhibition space PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

SAME SITES HINDSIGHT – Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

 

For me rephotography is a way of re-viewing place and change through a comparative documentation using the perspectives of earlier photographers. I have always enjoyed the challenge to re-align the contemporary view with the past to see visual narratives of change either subtle or profound. At this time I discovered the work by Mark Klett and others published in their 1984 book Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project. Their approach to the reimaging of the photographs of the American west by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan and others in the 1860s was methodical and scientific. Although I was informed by this seminal work as a record of social and historical change, in some of my work I also enjoyed questioning the notion of the original photographers as a kind of truth.

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In the mid 1980s I rephotographed tourist postcard scenes in outback Australia and reimaged tourist camera photos placing them in the context of a wider-angled view. These projects were presented at the Araluen Art Gallery in Alice Springs in 1986 in the exhibition Tourists Facts, Acts, Rituals & Relics.

Other projects emerged including a commission from Di Baker, Director of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery to locate the subject matter of artworks from the Toowoomba Gallery’s collection and to re-image the subject by photography.

The artworks that were my source reference covered a range of approaches to the artist’s vision imbued with the appearance of the painting techniques that they employed. Working with Victoria we travelled around the region to find the matching locations and met with some success finding the exact location. On occasion however we were only able to create a general locational view.

I chose a 4×5 large format camera and a black and white film made by Polaroid. Called Type 55 the film gave a black and white print and also a negative that, after in-field processing could be printed in a conventional enlarger.

The 1996 the exhibition NEW SIGHTS – SAME SITES was opened at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and installation of the selected artworks were paired with our photographic interpretation of the same scene.

Now 23 years later the Gallery has re-presented the work for reconsideration by a new generation of art gallery visitors.

 

Don Featherstone (L) Golden Tree (Corner of Kitchener and Herries Streets)1959 watercolour Spowart+Cooper (R) Corner of Kitchener and Herries Streets 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

 

 

The Gallery wall sheet for the Same Sites Hindsights exhibition states:

In 1996 photographer Doug Spowart assisted by Victoria Cooper undertook a project called New sight-Same sites which re-imaged Downs landscapes and other regional sites depicted in selected works from the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Toowoomba City Collection.

The project compared and contrasted the direct recording of a site using photography with the painter’s vision of the same location. One of the biggest challenges for Spowart in making these images was to replicate the painters’ viewpoints and, in some instances, even finding the locations proved problematic.

From the time of the initial recording to now, almost 25 years later, these photographs indicate constants and change. Time is transformational. In 1996, the Gallery challenged the photographer to identify these locations and in 2019 we challenge the viewer to explore Toowoomba and surrounds in response to these works.

 

The exhibition is on show from 14 September to November 3, 2019.

 

A selection from the subjects presented in the exhibition

C. G. S. Hirst  The New Court House 1879 watercolour and ink on paper

Spowart+Cooper  The Old Court House 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Herb Carstens   Sunday Morning (Street scene Toowoomba) 1961 oil on comp board

Spowart+Cooper  Sunday morning 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Brian Williams Near Drayton 1960 oil on comp board

Spowart+Cooper  Near Drayton 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Ruby Spowart Clifford Gardens 1986 photograph Polaroid SX-70

Ruby Spowart Clifford Gardens 1986 photograph Polaroid SX-70

Spowart+Cooper  Clifford Gardens 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

 

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TRAG Display

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OTHER REPHOTOGRAPHY PROJECTS BY Doug Spowart & COOPER+SPOWART

 

 

LINK: SEEING DOUBLE Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery 2001

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1993 THE BRISBANE PHOTOGRAPHY SCENE: Ian Poole Guest Editor

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Cover-PHOTO.Graphy Vol4 #5

Cover-PHOTO.Graphy Vol4 #5

 

From 1990 to 2001 I edited and published a journal called PHOTO.Graphy (ISSN 1038-4332 and earlier called ‘News Sheet’). This journal was created to fill a gap in the discussion, critique and commentary about a segment of the photography discipline within Australia. Occasionally I would engage guest editors to add their voice to the conversation. Ian Poole was the Guest Editor for Volume 4 #5 – Here is my Editorial introducing to Ian’s view of the art photography scene in Queensland in 1993.

 

Ian’s survey of the Queensland art photography scene makes for interesting reading nearly 25 years on… Mentioned in the survey are; Rod Buchholtz, Andrew Campbell, Ray Cook, Victoria Cooper, Marion Drew, John Elliott, Peter Fischman, Craig Holmes, Andrew Hurst, Chris Houghton, Susan Leway, Kerry James, Gail Newmann, Glen O’Malley, Charles Page, Graeme Parkes, Ray Peek, Howard Plowman, Rhonda Rosenthal, Maris Rusis, Doug Spowart, Ruby Spowart, Richard Stringer, Carl Warner, Jay and Younger. Charles A. von Jobin is also featured in the issue.

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A PDF of the full issue is available HERE: PHOTO.G-Vol4n5r.

 

 

scan 2scan 3

scan 4

scan 5

scan 6

 

 

PHOTO.G-Vol4n5r

RUBY SPOWART TURNS 85

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Ruby Spowart  Photo: Doug Spowart

Ruby Spowart Photo: Doug Spowart

I visited my mother last month just after the family birthday celebration given by her three sons and their families. 85 is a big number when it comes to years lived on this planet and one of Ruby’s recent projects gave me an opportunity to reflect on the life that she has witnessed. Ruby just finished an Apple iPhotobook entitled Meet my ancestors which contains family portraits, group photographs, texts and personal visual ephemera from the last 170 years of her, and mine–Ancestors. This is the third book she has made of this genre, the first being an artists book made from collected images of each year of her life from 1 to 21, and the second, a photobook entitled Bringing home the grain in which she describes the agricultural processes of grain growing and harvesting she encountered in her childhood on a farm in Northern Victoria.

Ruby's 'Meet my ancestors' book

Ruby’s Meet my ancestors book

The Meet my ancestors project brought me in contact with the value of the family photograph, either professionally made or made at home as a box Brownie snapshot, in its ability to provide proof of existence and the aging process encountered by a subject over many successive portraits. Another feature of Ruby’s assemblage and ordering of these family photographs is that they all have a connected linage. This is distinctly different to family photos encountered in junk shops, antique shops and car boot sales. In these circumstances the photographs are separated from their meaning, they become isolated examples of someone and not ‘a’ specific ‘known’ individual—a kind of image orphan.

Ruby's 'Meet my ancestors' book inside

Ruby’s Meet my ancestors book inside

These family portraits are not just photos as she has added a text as well and linked it to other records like personal correspondence and newspaper reports—usually of obituaries. A picture may be worth the proverbial 1000 words but a picture and an appropriate amount of text can place it within a context, a time and ancestral linage. John Berger wrote about this necessary liaison of photo and text in his book Another way of telling1. He says: ‘In the relation between a photograph and words, the photograph begs for an interpretation, and the words usually supply it. The photograph, irrefutable as evidence but weak in meaning, is given a meaning by the words.’

In contemporary society with the popularity of TV programs like Who do you think you are and the online availability of genealogical information there is a heightened interest in our family trees and ancestry. And, as Ruby has lived half of the time covered by her book it is important for her to be engaged in such a project. What is equally exciting for me is that she sits before a computer, sending and receiving communiqués and images from the extended family, she orders, optimizes and designs the pages of the book (with a little help from me): when she was 3 could she have ever dreamed of such a thing…

Ruby Spowart aged about3

Ruby Spowart aged about 3

SEE earlier post about Ruby and her work

Ruby can be contacted through LINKEDIN

Happy Birthday Ruby,

Son Doug, and Vicky

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1. Berger, J 1982, ‘Appearances’, in Another way of telling, Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative Society Ltd., London, UK.

Written by Cooper+Spowart

December 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm

RUBY SPOWART: Artist Talk @ Queensland AIPP

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RUBY SPOWART: Art Photographer

Around 30 photographers gathered to hear about the life and photographic art of Ruby Spowart in Brisbane on June 13th. Now in her mid 80s, Ruby has over the years participated in a range of photographic pursuits that have led to some quite substantial achievements. She is a triple Master of Photography, Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography; in her academic studies she has achieved a Certificate in Art from the Queensland College of Art and also an Associate Diploma of Visual Art from QUT. Recognised for her contribution in visual art she was awarded a Don Fraser Fellowship of QUT and, earlier in her career in the camera club movement she was awarded both an SSAPS and an APR Medal by the Australian Photographic Society. She co-founded Imagery Gallery in Brisbane that showed exhibitions of photography for fifteen years from 1980-1995. Her photographs have won major art photography awards in the 1980s and 90s including the Muswellbrook Photographic Award and the McGregor Prize for Photography and is held in major regional art collections and the Queensland Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia.

SEE Ruby’s curriculum vitae

Ruby has created an immense body of work in the following techniques:

  • Polaroid 10”x8” colour photograms (1980s)
  • Polaroid SX-70 multi-image (joiner-style works) (1980s)
  • Massive pseudo-panorama landscapes (1980s & 90s)
  • Camera toss mosaics  (1980s & 90s)
  • Large-scale photo mosaics  (1980s & 90s)
  • Artists’ books and photobooks (2000-2012)

Her most recognisable works, particularly from the AIPP APP Awards successes, comes from her work with Kodak High Speed Infrared film and a Leica M2. The images are usually of outback Australian landscapes and are heavily sepia toned.  SEE a folio of works in Ruby’s Behance Folio

Jan Ramsay introduces Ruby and Marianne

Queensland AIPP President Jan Ramsay enthusiastically introduced Ruby and Marianne Irvine (recently awarded AIPP Honorary Life Membership) who, we learned was to interview Ruby as part of the evening’s presentation. At first Ruby discussed her life and touched upon the following points;

  • Her mother was a keen artist who painted in oils
  • Her schooling was cut short by World War II, as she had to help out on the farm as her brothers had enlisted
  • She had always done things with art-making; enamelling, ceramics, china painting, drawing
  • Ruby joined the Numurkah Camera Club (in Victoria) and the Australian Photographic Society in the mid-1960s
  • Had served as National Membership Officer in the APS
  • Had participated in all levels of the camera club movement in Queensland in the 1980s
  • Founded Imagery Gallery with son Doug in 1980 and was a director until the gallery closed its doors in 1995
  • Exhibited extensively throughout the 1980s and 90s
  • Founded Imagery Gallery Tours with Doug in 1982 and over 17 years undertook around 40 outback safari tours around Australia, as well as tours to New Zealand, Africa and South-Western USA. It was noted that Imagery Gallery Tours may well be the Australia’s first Photo Tour business.
  • Ruby became involved with the AIPP and the APP Awards in the early 1990s and served as the administrator for many years
  • In the early 2000s Ruby cared for her husband who was in ill health and she moved to the Gold Coast on his passing in 2006.

‘Uluru elevation’ – Infrared film image by Ruby Spowart

This presentation was illustrated by examples of artworks and personal images from these recollections. Marianne Irvine then led a lively discussion around the infrared work and travelling in the Australian outback. The concept of taking photographs with film was commented on as many in the audience did not have a significant connection with infrared film, processing, fine print making on fibre papers and the variations of the toning processes that were employed by Doug, who had printed most of Ruby’s work—although she did hold up for the audience to see an image that she announced as her last APPA Gold awarded print, and said that she, ‘had printed that one!’

Doug explained the infrared film process as it existed 20 years ago and connected his knowledge and skill in the darkroom with the prints before the audience. SEE: Doug Spowart’s infrared film ‘How To’

Ian Poole interjected that the images were masterworks made by the photographer Ruby, and the printer Doug, and that the APPA print scores and labels on the print backs provided a wonderful provenance for the work as high quality ‘vintage’ prints.

When asked about her beginnings in art photography Ruby explained the creative space that was created by Imagery Gallery’s presence within the Brisbane photography scene. During its 15 years of operation Imagery Ruby and Doug showed over 200 exhibitions of photography, they curated major exhibitions of Queensland photographers work, some of which were shown in China, New Zealand and Noumea. She had found, as she believed many others had as well, that Imagery Gallery had provided inspiration for new ideas and directions of photography, exploration of themes and the presentation of photography within the gallery context.  SEE: IMAGERY GALLERY Biog

Marianne asks Ruby a question …

Questions from the floor enabled other insights into Ruby’s process and workflow to be revealed. The presentation concluded with everyone being presented with the Patterns in Time catalogue of Ruby’s work and an invitation to visit her on the Gold Coast to see more work from her extensive practice. Ruby advised that she was making her work available to interested purchasers and many attendees eagerly approached her at the conclusion of her presentation.

It’s not often that we can gather together and meet with photographers who have been a part of the recent history of the discipline and who in some way may have helped create that space and opportunities that we enjoy today—this occasion was certainly one of these. Thank you to Ruby for sharing her story and her art, to Marianne for her chairing the meeting, thanks also the AIPP Queensland Division and in particular Jan Ramsay for coordinating this and other events for the benefit of AIPP members and those interested in photography.

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Doug Spowart with contributions from Vicky

The Spowarts: Vicky, Doug, Ruby and grandson Ted.   Photo: Mark Schoemann

12 November: Sandy Barrie Presentation & Ruby’s 83rd Birthday

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Earlier posts describe the plight of Ipswich flood survivor Sandy Barrie. Today we reinstated his AIPP Honorary Life Membership Certificate and Ribbon both of which were lost in the flood. The occasion was shared with Ruby Spowart who celebrated her 83rd Birthday party with family.

Sandy Barrie with Ruby Spowart

Sandy was appreciative of the efforts made to get the award reissued by Queensland Divisional President Jan Ramsay. The event was witnessed by a deputation consisting of three AIPP Honorary Fellows.

Ruby + Annie about to blow out the candles

Best wishes to both Ruby and Sandy.

Cheers  Doug and Vicky

Written by Cooper+Spowart

November 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm

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