Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Time and old/found imagery

I've been musing on some points raised by my tutor for assignment 3. It has taken me a while to get around to posting about it as they have been intriguing and I knew I needed to do further research. This all relates to the images in the latter part of my assignment. I'd used an old photograph in the images at the site of my childhood home to help portray a sense of identity and shared history between myself and my sister. One of them can be seen below:

I'd seen a number of photographers use this approach in their work and I felt that the simple compositions in this set needed more visual clues to what I was trying to say - in this way the use of an old photograph helped to enrich the images.

My tutor comment below spelt out the process of found or old imagery and when I read it I instinctively knew that this process and the manipulation of it to form other ideas was something I want to pursue further: 

[The idea to use ‘old’ or ‘found’ imagery is not a modern concept, but has been very usefully applied by many throughout the history of the discipline. It worked very well for you here and really played a significant part, during the latter stages of the project. The process you are considering can be summarised as follows:

  1. Time elapses.
  2. Significant events occur.
  3. Specific details / people are recorded.
  4. Artifacts are created. [images]
  5. Variety of different histories are formulated [from different perspectives]
  6. These histories are recalled and embellished. [See Dawkins - Meme’s]
  7. Some histories are eventually forgotten or disappear.
  8. The ‘Artifact’ remains.
  9. Some artifacts are lost and some are collected. [The Archive]
  10. More time elapses.
  11. The archive or collection is interrogated.
  12. Histories are recalled or created.
  13. The event once more becomes significant.]
It is fascinating to read the process laid out like this and particularly the mention of alternate, embellished or created histories. I'm sure that we have all had the experience of a family story that has been told by an elderly relative and taken to be true only to turn out for it not to be the case at all. There is also the problem of mistaken identity when long forgotten family photographs are discovered and someone thinks the person might be some great aunt so and so but nobody really knows.

The image/artifact that I have created above has a particular meaning to me when I look back at it. I left this place at 13 years old, my sister having moved away to get married a number of years earlier. When we returned to the site of our former home to make the images it was the first time that we had both been back here together. Even though I was trying to direct my sister and concentrate on making my images I could see in her demeanour a profound sense of what had taken place here when we were growing up. I wasn't immune to these feelings myself and this shared moment is what I see now when I look at the image. It is a memory shared between both of us that will not necessarily translate if the artifact is to remain and be discovered and read by new viewers at a later time. Will they be able to recall the history of this artifact or will they create a new history for themselves? In fact the whole sequence of images could be read by an outside observer entirely differently already - as a journey of social mobility from poor working class origins to a more comfortable and affluent existence in the late 20th century.

These ideas helped me connect with the work of a photographer that I saw at the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2011. The image,"Glamis Castle, Angus, UK," by photographer Hui Yao from the series, "Mirage," was a portrait of the photographer taken outside the castle in the snapshot aesthetic style. This was an exploration by the photographer who had grown up in China to re-create a new, alternate, boyhood experience from the perspective of the West. The image can be seen here on his website, Yaohuier.com.

I can see now that these ideas feed into the process that my tutor is describing and that there is a lot more background information behind some of the most simple of images that is at first realised. Dawkins Meme's is also a theory that I had not come across before and I was intrigued by the concept of ideas and behaviours that spread from person to person within a culture as if they were self replicating.

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