Speaking Photographically

Forum: Evaluating Practice

Reflections on ‘Trilogy’ by Daniel Gustav Cramer.

The idea of anything being simultaneously full and devoid of stories reminds me of the question ‘Do trees make a sound when there is nobody there to hear them ?’ The answer is of course yes, the world does not stand still in the absence of human presence. Perhaps Cramer relies on the imagination of the viewer when suggesting that in the absence of human traces there is actually a story; for without human presence, past or present, there is no story except for in the imagination.

Some of the images in the Cramer’s edit are suggestive of the ‘unseen’ (the path leading away to the right of the trees, for example), where others are flat and more reminiscent of a botanical description. Therefore I think a more successful edit would have been to focus on either the seen or unseen; the implicit or explicit, the implied or the the factual; the narrative or the visual description.

Bright (1985) said ” If we are to make photographs that raise questions or make statements about what is in and around the picture, we must first become more conscious of the ideological assumptions that structure our approaches…”

Is it Cramer’s assumption that his audience would refer to the title when contextualising his work? One of my peers commented that Trilogy represented Mother Earth in maiden, mother and crone.  The word conjures up for me a religious essence – the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  When considering the work has no human or animal traces, it is as if Cramer is considering the time when God made the World, before the creation of life.

In my own practice I rely on the viewer’s imagination to identify the intended playfulness, and create their own ‘make believe’. Often my images are in fact a combination of three or more, but layered so that they melt into each other.

Activity: Positioning Practice

In the second form this week, we were asked to post an interview with a practitioner that interests us.  I chose Julie Cockburn as her embroidered found photographs have been highly influential for me. I first saw her work in The Photographer’s Gallery in 2016.

You can read an interview with her here:

I identify with her in the way she uses found photographs and responds to ‘an unknown history in a subjective way’. She goes on to describe her found objects as ‘lost from their original place and meaning’. In my own practice I also re-place characters who have been lost from the setting they were placed in, and prefer to think of the photographs that I appropriate as ‘re-found’.

Unlike Cockburn though, who states: ‘Unlike painters, I am not faced with an intimidating blank canvas’, I find that’s exactly what I start with.  It’s important for me to know where I want to place these characters and a tabla rasa is important for me to be able to do this.

In my practice I prefer to use snapshots rather than formal portraits because of the trace of the photographer within them.  Usually the photographer would be known to the faces looking at me and I find the unseen relationship between them worth considering. Cockburn, however believes there to be less of the original photographer’s personality in them – perhaps because the type of found photos she uses tend to be of a more formal nature and therefore perhaps the photographer and subject are less likely to be familiar with one another.

My interest in her work is less about the aesthetic and how she achieves this (although I have also used embroidery in some of my earlier work); but rather in the act of bringing photographs and the characters in them back to life where otherwise they may have been forgotten, and allowing the viewer to create narratives around what they see.

Text in interview with Julie Cockburn by Charlotte Jansen.

http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8910/the-artist-using-needle-and-thread-to-transform-found-photos (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  (accessed 20/3/18)