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Noé Sandas – Walking and Remembering – Paris Photo Fair

There were two reasons why the work of Sandas caught my eye at the Paris Photo Fair. Firstly, the subject matter – the images he refers to as ‘Antique Art’ interest me because of the connection with the found photography I use. The juxtaposition of two images with a snippet of text intrigued me, making me question what the connection between them is. In the example here, there is a page of a book and a photograph or postcard. Visually I found them pleasing, with lines, shapes and textures going from one to the other. Other than that I noticed no connection. The other eye catching element to this work was its method of display. The images were sandwiched between two plates of glass and held in situ by objects not usually associated with works of art, such as an old tool vice.  The presentation allowed the viewer to walk around the work, seeing it from both sides. Other visitors were visible through the glass, thereby seeming to make them an integral yet changing part of the installation.

Post updated 18/11/18

“Sendas purpose is to awaken memories which are not yours, which are older than you, to restore connexions and renew relationships which lie in the distant past.” Taken from

Sophie Calle’s ‘The Address Book’

This book appealed to me on so many different levels. Having taken inspiration from Calle’s The Hotel, Room 47 in the last module where I took a self portrait in the hotel room where I was staying, I looked forward to reading her Address Book.

The audacity she presents in contacting people previously unknown to her and interviewing them about someone they know (Pierre D.) is remarkable. As is the willingness and openness of most of these people to talk openly to her about Pierre.

Each entry in the book was published in Libération in 1983. Calle is blunt about her discoveries made through her investigative research, and illustrates each entry with a photograph taken by herself (with the exception of one). Connections between images and writing are not always obvious, some of them with more tentative or suggestive links than others. Some are set on the same page as text, some have their own page, either left or right. A few are a double page spread. Most were taken at the time and place of interview – either of a foot, head or crowd. Others are of part of the room itself such as a photo on the wall, a doorway. A few were taken outside. All, apart from one, a polar bear, are in black and white.

As the reader I question the meaning of this book. I want to know what we are expected to think or feel –  what Calle expects her reader’s experience to be. In response, I would describe it is a narrative – an unfolding story of discovery about the character known as Pierre D. Through it, we learn about his life, interests, friends and work. We peek inside the minds of his acquaintancies and are interested to see how far they will go when discussing Pierre with a stranger. It tells us of human relationships, integrity. It questions ethics and the blur between fact and fiction. Most of all, it is about honesty.

I very much enjoyed this book, in particular the slow, unfolding, illustrated narrative. Also of important note is the design of the book – small, red hardback with black binding –  as was the original address book that Calle found by accident one day.

Innovative distribution challenge

This task from last week required us to find new ways to distribute our work, without printing or posting online.  I had to work on this task quickly as I was preparing for my face to face weekend at Paris Photo:

I have a transcript of recent communications between myself and a genealogy researcher friend. I’ve taken a screenshot of part of it, and overlaid with some images which form parts of the narrative I’m trying to tell, relating to a 1920s photo album I’m working with.

My idea would be to use parts of the transcript, elements of text and photos from the original album, alongside my new images. Each resultant image would be narrative – heavy . The method of distribution I would choose would be projection – either onto a surface photographed in one of the originals (eg a harbour wall, Pathé studios), or more locally within an empty shop – if I was allowed permission), library or the trees in a public garden.

Although I rushed this task,  it gave me a lot to think about and I could really see it working as a means to show my work to the general public.

If I were doing this properly, I would separate the text out more and use it in a fragmented fashion, perhaps in similar sentence lengths to text in the album.

Tutor feedback on my forum post suggested that I look at the work of Steve Messam (Links to an external site.) and Rebecca Smith (Links to an external site.) ; think about who sees my work and what they gain from it; how I wish them to respond. After mentioning that I still struggle to see who realistically will be my audience, one idea is that I show it in local libraries in places that are mentioned in my albums – and catch the audience off guard. This is an attractive idea that I will consider once my project is complete.

Who buys photography?

The main sectors, taken from this week’s lecture:

  1. Communication agencies
  2. Businesses
  3. Magazines and newspapers
  4. E-commerce and catalogues
  5. PR companies
  6. Record companies and music companies
  7. Book publishers
  8. The general public

Numbers 7 and 8 are the most relevant to my work. Its focus on vernacular narrative means that my images are unlikely to be bought as singles, but as sets which form a photo book. However, I do have images which are not narrative in style. These are aesthetically pleasing singles which in theory could be used in magazines or possibly PR companies.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

In a recent portfolio review during the Photo Paris weekend, it was suggested that I look at this work.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive is a collaboration between Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye.

Photographer Leonard staged photographs over many years of  fictional character Fae Richards.  These then formed props in film maker Dunye’s film The Watermelon Woman – in which Dunye plays the main character (also called Cheryl) who is researching the life of the 1930s starlet Fae Richards. The archives she looks through are the original photographs that Leonard staged.

The article in Archives & Creative Practice (for details see reference page) states:

“Through the use of photographic and archival conventions Leonard and Dunye successfully borrow from the lives of historical figures to create a believable narrative that opens up questions as to what is left out of the historical record”

The result is a multi-layered blurring of fact and fiction.

A relevant lecture clip from Contemporary Art in Context can be seen here

After discovering the work of these two collaborators I have been able to place my own work contextually alongside it as relevant pointers in my Jimmy project include:

  1. A mixture of fact and fiction which will create a photo book.
  2. The book will have chapters, based around photographs of the original album and its parts; still-life photographs which are fictional props; story telling self – portraiture.
  3. A longer term addition would be to include ‘missing’ photographs, taken by collaborators. Already I have four such images, but are unlikely to be included in my assignment submission.
  4. There will be archival material, either to be photographed or included as appendices in the photo book.

In my portfolio review it was suggested that I might concentrate on what was in my found album, rather than trying to imagine what was not there. Having read this article and others I am more convinced that the way forward for my current work is to proceed as planned. I will, however, look at the use of colour within some of my still life work so they they don’t jar with the original photographs; and also do more work looking at the album’s pages, as encouraged.

Film: A Star is Born

An interesting point I noted while watching “A Star is born” were the throwbacks –  particularly the reference to using a typewriter to write out the songs; and hints at 1970s fashion); sneaked into the 2018 production.

Following some advice from my last module (to make my work either be about the past, or the present – ie not both) , I have been giving consideration on how this could be narratively possible. Seeing this film yesterday has convinced me again that it’s OK to mix past with present, so long as its coherent.

Guest lecture: Susan Bright

Curator and author Susan Bright works with her own references (such as thread). She enjoys curating far more than writing, she sees the latter as more of a necessity , something we all have to go through, rather than something she enjoys doing.

Bright works freelance for museums, this is also the preferred medium for her role to a “D.J/Plate spinner”, she sees herself as an educator, designer. entertainer, and researcher. Her exhibitions include “How we are” at Tate Britain, and “Face of fashion” at the National Portrait Gallery.

She finds it useful to use a scale model (a maquette) to design her exhibition, as it helps to work out how a real design space will look.  Recently I referred in a recent post about Christopher Agou using a maquette too. On a smaller scale, the dummy photo books that I made during the last module (and still perhaps in this one) serve the same purpose.

Like myself, Bright uses tactile objects to engage the audience. Most pertinent for me is the idea of designing a box, inside which there are pictures – every picture is a postcard with instructions on the back. This can then be played like a game. My current work will be presented inside a box and so this has been interesting for me to imagine how I might further engage the audience as they look inside.

Upcoming “Feast for the Eyes” for FOAM is both exhibition and book, and thematically (opposed to chronologically) tells the story of food in photography, curated by Susan Bright and Denise Wolff.

Links to this exhibition may be seen here: Aperture , here: Aperture; and here: FOAM


New work for an old album

This post in full, with the new images can be seen here.

I uploaded some of my latest images ready for some feedback during the presentation this week. With the exception of the Post Office pictures, all photos have been taken this week; and all have a connection to photos in Jimmy‘s album.

After seeing my photos one of my peers suggested that I use layer stacking to highlight the macro points of focus in some of these photographs – particularly the Victory medal with ribbons.  Long term this is advice that I will most definitely practice, I see the advantages in having a sharp focus photo which is still macro. Having considered the impact of this technique on this work though I’ve decided against it. It was deliberate to have a small part of the wording around the medal in focus. The image is intentionally provocative, bringing the viewer’s gaze to the word ‘Wood’ . The focal point of this one word links to an image in Jimmy’s album, with the text “Wood R.A.F. Goole, Yorks 1919” written underneath.  I want the viewer to question this image – who was Wood, and what is this medal doing here? If I layer stacked this image bringing all the text into sharp focus, the punctum (Wood) becomes lost, replaced instead by the studium (the medal).

Collecting Wood’s Victory medal from the Post Office and opening the envelope, I was excited yet nervous, and couldn’t help wondering what Wood and his family felt when he received the medal almost a century ago.

Also called the Allied Victory Medal, it was awarded to everyone who received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and most who were awarded the British War Medal. These three medals were nicknamed Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred, after three comic strip characters popular during this era. Wilfred refers to the Victory medal.

I purchased two inches of silk victory ribbon, and then bought individual ribbons in the same colours and photographed them with the medal. Some images shown in my work have original RAF WW1 jacket buttons too. All of these items were purchased as part of my research and are integral to my project.

There are references in Jimmy‘s album to a wedding in 1927 between Fred and Dolly (Doris) in 1927. I took macro photos of decoration parts from my grandparents’ wedding cake. The wedding was in 1936.

Images of Jimmy’s album (black leather bound with gold edged pages) may serve as dividers between the various sections of my completed work.

Torn pages from Jimmy‘s album are integral to my work – will the viewer wish to know why, in such a beautiful album, photographs have been so violently removed? And in some cases, why remove the images rather than the entire page? It’s as if it was important to preserve the book, even without some of the photographs and holes in the pages.