A country life: the black and white photographs of Olive R Odewahn
This is a book about photography and photographs, and what a keen amateur photographer quietly did with her camera and hundreds of rolls of film in the middle of the twentieth century. Olive Rose Odewahn, (née Jelbart) (1914-2006) photographed in black and white from around 1928 until about 1960, picturing her life and her surrounds in the picturesque, productive, rural Riverina area of south-eastern Australia.
Olive Odewahn kept most of her negatives which is unusual for an amateur photographer. Some 650 negatives were stored in chocolate boxes. For this publication and for the exhibition contemporary digital technologies were used to scan and process a broad selection of negatives into positive images as well as to make large inkjet prints. When viewed as digital images made large, Olive’s negatives reveal many details that are otherwise almost impossible to see on the little, roughly cropped, contact prints that she received from the photo processors. To further enhance Olive’s beautiful pictures, the images in this book have been printed in duotone.
Olive’s photographic pictures range from personal (but not private) photographs of family members and friends, to descriptive, almost journalistic pictures of farming life and its sheer hard work, to story-telling with her pictures through to images made for her own creative curiosity and pleasure. As the photographer, Olive is at the centre of her pictures as she points her camera outwards and onto the worlds of her many different subjects. Olive’s photographs are always considered and deliberate. Her thoughtful approach to each shot has produced sincere, charming and unpretentious images of individual people, groups and communities in various places and in a time now gone.
Olive pictured people, locations, events, activities and scenes that are often considered unremarkable and unimportant as subject matter. She imaged life around her: activities, places and lives that would otherwise be overlooked, not considered, and forgotten. This desire to image her own stories together with her perseverance and passion for taking and making pictures with her camera, is the strength of her photography.
Accompanying the photographs are two essays. One is about these photographs and the camera, about photography and the photographer, the other essay is a more personal response to the pictures also considering them from a historian’s perspective. As well, one of Olive’s children proffers personal insights on her mother as photographer.
Exhibition of prints made from Olive Odewahn’s original negatives re-scheduled to