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A Sixtieth of a Second 1961-1981 (1987)

Preface

A Sixtieth of a Second: Portraits of Women 1961-1981

by Sue Ford

published by Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide 1987

Most of these photos were taken with the camera set on a 1/60th of a second at F11. I used to

follow a set formula, in the same way you would follow a cake recipe, knowing that you would

have more chance of it (the cake or the photo) coming out. My 'recipe' also included using the

same developer and printing paper. I don't think I changed this 'recipe' much, there seemed no

point. Although these photos span twenty years they took three-quarters of a second to take,

all together. I've always been fascinated by family photo albums, most of my work in

photographs comes from this source.

Like many other photographers I started out with my father's Brownie Box. At school I

photographed my friends, hanging around at lunch time, at the beach -also our dog and cat. For me, taking photographs was a form of

celebration of al1event, place or person. I was fortunate to go overseas when I was seventeen. I took a camera with me to see the world;

unfortunately none of the photos came out. I never knew if something was wrong with the camera or the way I used it. Later, the

disappointment of not having a record of that great time prompted me to look up photography books, but it seemed like a foreign

language to me.

Eventually, in 1960, I got a job with a photography firm in Collins Street,

Melbourne, who specialised in fashion photography. I delivered their

photos to clients, startedto learn photographic 'retouching' and spent most

of my lunchtimes in the dark room. Bernard, a young Frenchman, ruled

this dark and mysterious Aladdin's Cave. Watching the image appeal" in

the developing tray seemed like magic. Later on I discovered that it was

the interaction of light and silver halides.This experience led me to

enrolling at the Royal Melbourne Institute Photography School in 1961. I

spent most of my time there with the only other girl there, Annette]

Stevens. Together we went out on our 'photographic assignments' which

mostly seemed to be about 'street life', trying to overcome our self-

consciousness, our bouffants blowing in the wind.

During our one and only year at Tech we found a cheap room over a cafe

in Little Collins Street, and set up a studio and darkroom. These two areas

were separated by a hessian curtain, which meant the darkroom could only

be used at night. Our 'studio' doubled as a home away from home, an]alternative to being at Tech, and hopefully a possibility of

economic independence. My earliest 'studio portraits' that were taken were of my friends from school. They were keen to have a 'portrait'

taken, and were very nice about having to sit around for an hour or so while I experimented with different lighting effects. These photo

sessions were approached with a ceremonial seriousness. My friends usually brought different clothes with them and during the sessions

we would change clothes and hairstyles.

By the end of the year I had started to get some jobs doing

portraits, but we had to move out of the building as it was

sold. Eventually, after a year of being a 'darkroom worker'

for different firms, I concentrated on child portraiture to

make a living, but always kept up with my own portrait

photography, it had become a habit. The paper foldout filing

systems I bought myself in those days, I still have. They

are labeled: 'Portraits' 'Commercial Portraits', 'Fashion',

'Machines', 'Oddments', 'Table Top', ‘landscapes', etc.

Twenty years later, in 1981, I decided to look through my

negatives to see if there was one particular thing I had been

recording through the twenty years. With rather incredulous

eyes, I printed some 1961 portraits and fashion photos.

Then I remembered all the portraits I had taken of the

women I had met when I lived in the country.  During the

last few years I had been working in films and not doing

much photography but still occasionally photographing

friends I spent time with. I decided that these portraits of

friends and women that I'd met, were my most interesting

photos, so I printed them up. Eventually I showed them as

The Photobook of Women  at an exhibition held at the NSW

Art Gallery in 1982.

I would ike to thank the Experimental Art Foundation for their encouragement in getting the book together, my friends Janine Burke,

Micky Allan, Pamela Brown and Joy Hirst and my daughter Emma and son Ben for their support. The photographs up to 1975 were taken

on a two and a quarter square camera and after 1975, on a 35mm camera. The prints in this book were made by Sandy Edwards and

Wendy Rew and were done on silver gelatin paper.