Two Inadequate Voices


2IV is a platform for image-makers to recount and reflect textually on their stories of being out in the world whilst photographing.

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Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart
Bedroom Camera Obscura Y2K

Our rhythms insert us into a vast and infinitely complex world, which imposes on us experience and the elements of this experience. Let us consider light, for example. We do not perceive it as a waveform carrying corpuscles but as a wonder that metamorphoses things, as an illumination of objects, as a dance on the surface of all things that exist.

Henri Lefebvre, 2004, Rhythmanalysis; Space, Time and Everyday Life

2000 was a pivotal year as we formed our business partnership after many years of individual practice. At this time we began individual higher academic study at Monash University to follow a need for deeper engagement with the philosophical practice of photography. Although we continued to pursue our individual practice in lensed, pinhole and zoneplate photography along with digital photomontage work, these events were to define directions for our future arts practice.

We started to gain strength and creative potential from our burgeoning collaborative work through the development of our artists’ book publishing partnership. As Charles Green presented in his book, The Third Hand, our collaboration took us to places that we could not have imagined, where a new entity broke through the boundaries of our individual egos and created a space freedom of creative thought, questioning and experimental work.

As part of new directions for our practice, we started early research into aspects of site-specific work, performance and place photography in our practice. Influenced by the pinhole photography collaboration of Eric Renner and Nancy Spencer along with the room camera obscura work of Abelardo Morell, we became interested in how this phenomenon transforms the experience and perception of everyday spaces.

In August 2000, our first project, the Bedroom Camera Obscura, was constructed in this mundane and yet private space of our home. We kept the construction design simple and documented our observations and interactions within the temporal and spatial phenomenon of the installation inside the room over the period of a week. Within the room we witnessed human and nonhuman daily activities and the change of light during the day as it moved across the inner surfaces of the room. The montaged image projected of the outside world inverted and reversed on the inner walls of our bedroom, began an ongoing questioning involving the psychology and lived experience of everyday life overlying architecture and place. We also discovered that inverting the documentation image totally transformed its reading.

From this work we formed a methodology for our future work that was also informed by Paul Carter’s Material Thinking and Bruno Latour’s recognition of agency of the nonhuman as potential collaborators. We chose not to use lenses in the construction of the camera obscura, preferring of the immediacy and simplicity of the unmediated passage of light into the room. It was our intent to collaborate with the room to construct the intervention. As the initial intervention was ephemeral, it was documented using a lensed camera to record our process and performance that would be incorporated into artists’ books/photobooks, wall works and the archive of each project.

Over the years since, we have continued to experiment with the construction of other camera obscuras in public spaces including motel rooms, galleries, institutions, historical sites and the very challenging Bass Straight crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. The most memorable and productive collaborative work was created when we converted our Toyota Tarago into a CarCamera Obscura and engaged in the ritual of the Grand Australian Road Journey through a trans-continental crossing of Australia.

The camera obscura totally transformed our practice. Our collaboration engendered a space where we collectively considered our position in time, space and place through: performance, stilled and moving image, sound and an awareness of the quotidian and the corporeal...

In our collaborative work, we are interested in both the physical construct and cultural conventions that inform and shape us. This includes the common rituals and structures that surround, support and transport us in our everyday lives. In this work we have extended the context of documentary photographic methodology to include the narrative potential of the camera obscura and architectural projections.

Our Car Camera Obscura work was included in the publication LOOK, Contemporary Australian Photography and our works have won awards in national art photography competitions including being multiple finalists in the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award and the Sixth Leica/ CCP Documentary Photography Award.

︎: @wotwesaw & @antipodeanphotobooks