DOUG SPOWART + 10"X8" Contact Work

For us all the continuing parade of life and things seen are perpetually in a state of flux. We can use no trick to halt the flow of visual information that passes before us seemingly like a music video film clip save the medium of photography. For over 150 years the images of life have been stilled and retained in metallic silver encased in gelatin. The quintessential vision of the photographer of a time and place frozen forever provides the interested viewer with an opportunity to see and interpret content, unhampered by the threat, that what is before them will be transformed before being digested.

Whilst the photographic image is usually attributed with the role of the presenter of fact, nothing could be further from the truth as the ever changing human seen reality is undeniably a matter of individual perception; nothing like the stilled life preserved by the camera's shutter. Something akin to the observation of a motile animal and a taxidermied museum specimen. Whilst the basic structure is the same both subjects provide entirely different opportunities for the spectator. As the photograph provides a different representation of reality it becomes a vehicle for the viewer to behold a world hitherto unseen.

In this work Doug Spowart's objective is to invoke the photographer's feeling for the grand detail of the natural environment by capturing every superb tone and detail of the original subject. To achieve this objective he uses a camera of near mammoth proportion which makes negatives that are 20.3x25.4 centimeters in size. Commonly referred to by the measurement of its film size 10"x 8" such cameras are a challenge to work with in the field as the required equipment can weigh as much as 35 kilograms. Doug Spowart's negatives are not enlarged but contact printed to retain the finite information contained in the original scene.

Working with large format cameras in the field venerates the traditions of photography and is intended by Spowart to emulate the fine print aesthetic of Ansel Adams and the Westons. These hard won images do reward close critical viewing if not only to show the photographer's mastery of technique and situation but also to put the viewer in touch with a detailed experience of the landform portrayed.

To produce meaningful communication through images the photographer's task is to make order from disorder, simplicity from confusion and clarity from paradox, and by creatively resolving the complexities of the photographic process, which result in impressions of the fleeting moments of carefully chosen, cherished environments on film. In contemporary times when much of the photography given credence by art museums and galleries merely mimics modern art it is refreshing to see traditional, pure photography doing what it does best, that is, the capture and communication a personal vision of a reality normally unseen.


Gene Owens

21 September 1992

Doug Spowart with Sinar
10x8 Contacts : The Boulders
Doug Spowart 1993
10x8 Contacts : Ruby Gorge
Doug Spowart 1991
Read about Doug Spowart's 10"x8" technique
Read about Doug Spowart's thoughts on photographing Nature