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THOMAS OLIVER’s ‘Disconnection’ exhibition & essay

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Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

 

Disconnection is a solo show by Brisbane photographer Thomas Oliver. The series consists of work that has been captured in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and (of course) Brisbane. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue essay written by Dr. Doug Spowart.

Artist’s Talk: Interview with Dr. Heather Faulkner, 11am-1pm Saturday 25th February

Full Exhibition Dates: Tuesday 13th – Saturday 25th February

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm

Address: Project Gallery – QCA South Bank Campus, 226 Grey Street

 

OLIVER’s Artist Statement

Experiencing the ebb and flow of life in a capital city, it is easy to become consumed by the gurgling hum of activity. It sparks and pulses like an amped-up generator. We slip from one task to the next, leaving ourselves behind in the process. The lights flicker and the air vibrates warmly around us. And like a mad hive, our cities swarm with ghostly forms, smoothly transparent and faceless.

 

 

 

My Words for Thomas …

What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.[1]

John Berger died last week. But his work will continue to reveal insights on how we perceive photographic communications. Even now I continue to hear his words in my head as I write. Most of the time his voice inhabits my writing, saying the words that I have just typed. His writing and critical thinking offered new ‘ways of seeing and looking at photographs’ – as ‘quotes’ from appearances, photos and memory. The photograph presents to us information that has connections to a reality as in Berger’s assertion, ‘A photograph arrests the flow of time in which the event photographed once existed’.[2]

 

But what happens when the photographic moment is slurred by slow shutter-speeds, movement of subject and camera panning? In this approach Thomas Oliver creates visual documents that could never have been seen by the photographer or an observer of the scene. These are documents of not a moment but of time passing. They transcend the instantaneous moment and suggest a visual concept of the subject’s spirit seemingly extracted by the act of photography–a tear in temporality ‘arrested’.

Francis Bacon: Three studies for a portrait of Lucian Freud 1969

Francis Bacon: Three studies for a portrait of Lucian Freud 1969

Oliver’s images also have a resonance with Gilles Deleuze’s discussion on Francis Bacon’s[3] work in his 1981 book Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Deleuze highlights how ‘chance’ and the expressiveness of the random and indiscriminate effects of vigorous brush strokes inform Bacon’s painting. Deleuze proposes that: ‘there is no chance except “manipulated” chance, no accident except a “utilized” accident.’[4] In making his photographs Oliver has no way of knowing what each slow shutter release will reveal. He relies on his understanding of technique during the process of exposure to realize the potential for an evocative outcome.

For me Oliver’s photographs are based on the ‘manipulated chance’. He is ready to respond with the tools photography to capture the phenomenon of light and time in everyday places frequented by people. His work seems to also rely on his acceptance of ‘utilized accidents’. It is from this principle that his moments of strange and powerful visual poetry come into being.

But are they his photographs? My favourite Berger quote also relates to Oliver’s spontaneous street images. That there are things beyond us, I’m not talking about God or Gods, but rather more about the involvement of the ‘other’ in the making of art. Berger said it beautifully for me – his voice echoes in my mind:

The modern illusion concerning painting [I read photography here]. . . is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what he has received.[5]

I respectfully present to you – Thomas Oliver’s Disconnection photographs of simulacra from the street.

 

Doug Spowart PhD

 

[1] Berger, John. “Appearances/the Ambiguity of the Photograph.” In Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography, 47-52. Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002.
[2] Ibid
[3] I refer also to Francis Bacon’s paintings based on Diego Velázquez’s Pope, Portrait of Innocent X (1650) and his portraits of friends, for example Three studies for a portrait of Lucien Freund (1964).
[4] Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Continuum. Continuum Edition ed. London: Continuum Books, 1981. Editions de la Difference.
[5] Berger, John. The Shape of a Pocket. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.

 

Written by Cooper+Spowart

February 18, 2017 at 9:04 pm

A GIFT OF A CAMERA: David Tickell’s cameras

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Advertising stuff from the 1960s for David's cameras

Advertising stuff from the 1960s for David’s cameras

 

In March 2013 I was contacted by David Tickell who wanted to meet with me to talk about a proposition he had in mind. I had known David for many years – he had been a writer and critic for the local press and had written the text for a book by my photographer friend John Elliott. In the early 2000s David had enrolled in photography studies at the college I taught at in Toowoomba. He was always an enthusiastic contributor to the classroom as he sought to learn and master digital photography. It became evident to me at the time that David had a considerable interest and capability in photography from his past career activities.

 

When David came by to visit he brought an aluminium case covered with the patina of travel and use. Inside the case were the things that David had wanted to talk with me about. We sat in our carport rainforest and talked about what we’ve both been up to and changes in our lives. David spoke about downsizing his life’s goods and chattels and introduced the aluminium case’s treasures to me… a Rollei twin lens reflex with a range of filters and accessories, an Exakta 35mm SLR – all neatly packed with manuals and other ephemera. It was all in immaculate condition. He told me that he had purchased it in the Middle East at a time in his journalism career that needed quality photographs.

 

With David Tickell on the day of his gift to me in 2013

With David Tickell on the day of his gift to me in 2013

His dilemma now was that with digital photography he had no need for the equipment and he wanted to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it and perhaps even use it – he proposed that I was that person. I appreciated his gesture and felt honoured by his offer. I mentioned that Vicky and I had a Rollei in our possession and that we would look after the gear and pass it on to an individual, perhaps a student, who we considered would value this equipment and use it to extend their analogue photography work. We made photographs of our meeting with the cameras and David left feeling excited that his gift was well received and would be looked after.

For some time I’ve been looking out for a suitable person to receive David’s gear. Quite a few years ago I’d come across a Brisbane band webpage called ‘Something from the scene’, and a little while later I had a student who was interested in contemporary band photography who had found the same site as an inspiration. In June 2015 we met Thomas Oliver at the Siganto Artists Book Forum in Brisbane. He was the guy from ‘Something from the scene’. We both connected with Thomas who we found out was a Queensland College of Art Bachelor of Photography student. Our paths have crossed many times since including his involvement in exhibitions and projects I’ve curated include a Skype artist’s talk that he participated in at Maud Gallery in March for the In situ documentary show.

Recently Thomas has completed his Bachelor of Photography and was the winner of the John Mckay Award for the student going into honours, and a Saint Margaret School’s internship award. He is continuing his studies with an Honours year at QCA. I was particularly interested in Thomas’ engagement with analogue photography. Extensive project work while on study tour to Europe, the UK and Canada was shown at Maud in the ‘In situ’ show and his graduating BP work featured an involvement in the variants and deviations possible from the printing of the singular black and white film negative.

 

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his 'Disconnection' series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his ‘Disconnection’ series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his 'Disconnection' series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his ‘Disconnection’ series

Thomas Oliver giving his floortalk by Skype

Thomas Oliver giving his ‘In Situ’ floortalk by Skype from Canada

Thomas talking about his work at the Maud Gallery 'Dark Love' event in November 2016

Thomas talking about his work at the Maud Gallery ‘Dark Love’ event in November 2016

 

For his enthusiasm for photography and his dedication to analogue photography I chose to pass on David’s gear to Thomas. We met at Maud Gallery at the end of November and the exchange made. He was excited to be the recipient of David’s equipment legacy and excitedly talked about how the gear could be used in his future photographic research work.

 

Thomas Oliver and me

Thomas Oliver and me

 

David’s equipment has found a new life with Thomas and as long as he has a need and a interest it will reside with him – until he wishes to pass it on to a new custodian…

Thomas Oliver with David's gear

Thomas Oliver with David’s gear

 

Words about David Tickell from John Elliot’s photographic documentary book The Last Show published in 1986. The book was about the last Toowoomba Agricultural Show held on the inner-city site bordering Bridge, Campbell and Lindsay Streets. Elliott’s photographs were complimented by a text telling the story of the show written by David.

From John Elliott's book 'The Last Show' 1986

From John Elliott’s book The Last Show 1986

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

December 17, 2016 at 1:47 pm

DARK LOVE: Stories of the darkroom @ Maud Gallery

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dark-love-logo-stre-1000

 

It seems that in the digital age many photographers still pine for the days past when the darkroom was familiar territory. While older photographers may have fond memories, today they share their darkroom love with new-comers, mainly younger and digitally native photographers. To honour the past and to celebrate the future of the darkroom we worked with the Director of Maud Creative Gallery Irena Prikryl recently to host a series of events and workshops to recognise analogue photography in contemporary photographic practice.

 

On November 8 a group of photographers responded to the call to attend an event at the gallery called DARK LOVE: Stories of the Darkroom. They were asked to come along with something special about the darkroom and tell a story associated with it. On arrival at the gallery their photographs were prepared and then hung on the wall.  The presentations were timed at around 5 minutes and were quite fascinating.

 

Part of the Dark Love exhibition at Maud Gallery

Part of the Dark Love exhibition at Maud Gallery

What follows is a photo of the attendee, their print and a brief comment about their stories …

 

Alex Buckingham

Alex Buckingham

Alex spoke about working with Liquid Light emulsions

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Victoria Cooper

Victoria Cooper discussed the making of this pinhole biscuit tin photo and the challenges of printing the 6x18cm negative

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thomas Oliver

Thomas spoke about his current academic research in the multiple printing of a single negative.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tammy Forward

Tammy discussed the making of a studio portrait.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sandy Barrie

Sandy spoke of the dangers of shooting large format in busy Sydney traffic.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Robyn Hills

Robyn told the story of the making of this award winning print – from its origins from a point-n-shoot camera to darkroom high contrast printing ‘Tipp-ex” and a little bit of marker pen…  A great animated performance….

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rob Crapnell

Rob discussed his interest in the darkroom and work with a 6×7 Pentax documenting how old heritage buildings in Brisbane are being cramped by the skyscraper…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peter Pescell

Peter discussed his use of an ‘ancient’ bellows camera and reloaded 120 aerial film on spools to make this image… the old and the outdated still have currency in analogue…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Michael Stephenson

Michael discussed his modern printing of a series of lantern slides that represented a panorama of Brisbane made in the 1870s(?) by the photographer a Mr Wilson(?).

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Louis Lim

Louis spoke of a camera obscura that he made in a children’s hospital as part of an artist in residence. He described the view of Vulture Street in Brisbane on the ceiling of the room and how children visiting the space were enthralled by the images on the ceiling and walls…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jeff Ryan

Jeff discussed the taking of this photograph and its connection personal connection with he and his brother’s lives. The photo was made relatively recently at a place where Jeff and his brother played as kids 40 years earlier.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Irena Prikryl

Irena’s story related to buying her first serious camera – a Hasselblad and then taking some photos in Grand Central Station in New York. The camera was balanced on a railing and the shutter speed was long…  The photo was recently printed in a Fine Art Print workshop at Maud with Doug+Vicky.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chris Bowes

Chris Bowes was unable to attend but had come by earlier to install his personal investigation of self and sweat by placing un-exposed B&W photopaper against his body. The prints are then process yield a ‘Chemigram’.  Chris will present a floortalk at the gallery. Check the Dark Love page for details…

 

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David Symons

David discussed that the origins of his 1980s photographic series was a response to the work and photobooks of David Hamilton. Hamilton was well known for his ‘soft-porn’ photos of young girls. Symons spoke about how he appropriated Hamilton’s photos by double printing copy negatives through a cracked mud image. Texts from Hamilton’s book were adapted by Symons using a redactive process to reveal an alternative story….

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Doug Spowart

I commented about how a recent re-connection with pinhole photography during the Pinhole workshop last weekend had helped to resolve a need for a new project that Vicky and I will be working on next year. I passed around an 8″x10″ film pinhole negative that had revived my interest and love of the darkroom.  PHOTO: Victoria Cooper.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Edwin Wecker

Edwin discussed his experiences with film photography whilst on tour to India with his friend Russell Shakespeare.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gail Hoger-Neuman

Gail showed some photographs from her early 1990s exhibition ‘Hollywood Stills’ that was shown at Imagery Gallery.

 

Sandy Barrie demonstrates ancient portable daylight enlargers – the oldest was made before 1859.

Sandy Barrie demonstrates ancient portable daylight enlargers – the oldest was made before 1859.

 

Conversations continued after the presentations

Conversations continued after the presentations

The DARK LOVE works were enjoyed and discussed

The DARK LOVE works were enjoyed and discussed

 

CHRIS BOWES FLOORTALK  – 26 November – details to be confirmed

A FINE ART PRINTING WORKSHOP WILL TAKE PLACE ON – Postponed to 2017

A CYANOTYPE WORKSHOP – Details HERE

AND THE FRONT GALLERY WILL BE CONVERTED INTO A CAMERA OBSCURA on November 26 (to be confirmed)

 

 

 

Festival of the Darkroom logo

Festival of the Darkroom logo

 

All portrait photographs and gallery documentations unless credited otherwise ©2016 Doug Spowart

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NEW PHOTODOC SHOW Curated by Doug @ Maud Gallery

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In-situ - Frontispiece

In-situ – Frontispiece

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IN SITU: New Photodocumentary Work

 

At the end of 2015 I was the external assessor for the Queensland College of Art Bachelor of Photography Documentary stream. The work that I encountered from their recently completed documentary photography projects was inspiring. The projects that they had engaged in employed an ‘embedded’ methodology. Each photographer created stories expressing concepts and ideas that I felt deserved a wider audience. As some of the projects crossed-over into the slippery areas of art and concept documentation I felt that presenting the work in this context would encourage comment and discourse.

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Doug in an assessment @ the Queensland College of Art PHOTO: Earle Bridger

Doug in an assessment @ the Queensland College of Art PHOTO: Earle Bridger

 

I sought support from Irena Prikryl, Director of Brisbane’s Maud Gallery, with my intention being to curate a show of selected works. Over a week I forwarded to Irena websites and links to the student’s works – each submission was met with a response – ‘these photos are awesome!’ Irena then offered an exhibition early in 2016. In discussions with students I found that one of them was interested in curating and gallery management – so an honorary internship was offered to Gillian Jones.

 

The rationale for exhibition is as follows:

Every photograph is a document. A photographic document may be about a friend’s smile, a family event, a dramatic storm cloud or a dent in a car door. But, what about those documentary images that tell us about the greater aspects of life in our times? These other photographs can encompass the tragedies of human suffering, of rituals and habits, of things that escape our casual view of the world and documents of hidden acts, a performances or a ‘happening’.

The documentary photographs in this exhibition are made by photographers not working as the casual iPhone snapshot ‘photographer’ of today, but rather individuals who embed themselves in human and natural environments to witness, to empathise and to document with a camera so a story can be shared.

The documentary photographers in this exhibition present their work as evidence of what they have seen, felt and been touched by. This work represents new photodocumentary practice and will place viewers in situ – surrounded by issues of contemporary life…

 

The exhibitors who accepted the invitation were:  

Follow the links to the Maud Gallery website to see the projects (NOTE: Some links may now be inactive)

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Chris Bowes  for the work ‘Sweat

Richard Fraser  for the work ‘Pup play and beyond – exploring Brisbane’s BDSM subculture’

Gillian Jones for her work ‘Choice, Chance or Circumstance

Louis Lim  for his work ‘Waiting for Sunshine

David Mines for the work ‘Beautiful one day perfect the next?

Thomas Oliver for his work ‘Disconnection

Marc Pricop for the work ‘Our Place in The Valley

Elise Searson for her work ‘Karen’ Lyme disease sufferer

Cale Searston for his work ‘BLU

 

The show was opened by arts writer Louise Martin-Chew on March 9 who was to comment at the beginning of her address that:

I am not an expert on photo documentary: my interest is in art and artist stories. I’m interested in the way in which we may tell and share these stories most effectively, and it is the many narratives, often those that are hidden unless you are part of that experience, or sub culture, that is at the heart of this exhibition of new photography.

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Louise Martin-Chew opens 'In Situ' PHOTOS: Irena Prikryl

Louise Martin-Chew opens ‘In Situ’ PHOTOS: Irena Prikryl

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Well over 120 people attended the exhibition opening. A cash bar operated with the profits going to the Lyme Disease Association of Australia charity – associated with Elise Searson’s project’

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Opening attendees

Opening attendees

Opening attendees

Opening attendees

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Some views of the exhibition:

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David Mines' 'Beautiful one day perfect the next?'

David Mines’ ‘Beautiful one day perfect the next?’

Elise Searson's 'Karen' Lyme disease

Elise Searson’s ‘Karen’ Lyme disease

Richard Fraser's 'Pup play and beyond'

Richard Fraser’s ‘Pup play and beyond’

Thomas Olivers' 'Disconnection'

Thomas Olivers’ ‘Disconnection’

Louis' 'Waiting for Sunshine'

Louis’ ‘Waiting for Sunshine’

Chris Bowes' 'Sweat'

Chris Bowes’ ‘Sweat’

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Over the course of the exhibition each of the photographers presented a floortalk at the gallery. One contributor was Thomas Oliver, who is currently studying overseas in Toronto, Canada presented a Skype session in the gallery before his work.

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Gillian Jones presenting her floortalk

Gillian Jones presenting her floortalk

Thomas Oliver giving his floortalk by Skype

Thomas Oliver giving his floortalk by Skype

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The exhibition concluded on the 20th March with a dinner for the exhibitors and gallery members within the white walled empty space of the gallery.

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The artists' dinner @ Maud Gallery

The artists’ dinner @ Maud Gallery

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In my comments at the opening of the exhibition I stated that a documentary photograph does not exist until it is publically distributed. The exhibition, In Situ: New Photodocumentary Work, put this work and the stories it contains before an audience. Everyone seeing it may interpret this work differently; such is the nature of the photodocument. Perhaps the true value of photodocumentary work can be summed up in Louise martin-Chew’s closing statement:

The power of this collection of works by a very talented group is simply summed up I think: Art may not be able to save the world, but it has an unparalleled ability to help us understand the individuals that comprise a community, a country, a continent = the world. And that may be sufficient.

Thank you to Irena Prikryl and Maud Gallery, Gillian Jones, the contributing photographers and Louise Martin-Chew for a memorable and powerful photodocumentary exhibition of new works.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

 

 

Louise Martin-Chew’s opening address can be seen on her website: HERE

 

New-PhotoDoc Catalogue

New-PhotoDoc Catalogue

A catalogue of selected works from the show can be downloaded: NEW-DOC-CATALOGUE

Each of the photographer’s works can be seen on the Maud Gallery website under the participant’s names in the OUR ARTISTS menu – they can be purchased from the site as well.

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Unless attributed otherwise all texts and photographs are ©2016 Doug Spowart
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