I’ve been absorbing the ideas, strategies and techniques of artist and photographs as I’ve been working through this Module and it’s been a slow process because sometimes I’ve been thinking how their approaches could be applied to my own work and trying these out as I did here . Stephen Gill’s work varies in every series as he makes conceptual leaps, manipulates layers, photographs, layers and re-photographs as with Hackney Flowers . His work is complex in its structure and I think I will need more inward reflection to enter into his frame of mind, so I keep returning to it. I wrote about Esther Teichmann and Helen Sear here . They layer images in different ways and both appeal. Painting and photograph; subject against background (Teichmann). Birds in front of face ; pixellation and erasure through layers to create ethereal/lacy effects (Sear). I did experiment with layering past and more recent images of locations when I started on the Assignment (see Assignment process) but decided not to continue with this as I haven’t had recent opportunity to return to the locations. However, I achieved the layering in different ways by layering different photographs and Google images over a photograph taken on Horsell Common, as I thought its sandy substance mirrored both the sand of Egypt and the sandy river bed of the river Derwent in Calver (front and back covers of the photo book . Overall the exercises in Part One of the Module gave me more confidence in creating the collages and composites – such as in pages 5, 7, 9 and 11 of the photo book.
I have previously referred to Album 31 the work of Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl in their response to the archive of Sir Benjamin Stone. The way they presented their response mirrored that of Stone’s original album and the in-framing appealed to me. However, I decided that it didn’t suit my own concept for my photo-book as I wanted the images to be freer on the page.
Duane Michal’s work has long been an influence, with the attention given to the interplay of image and text, including his use of handwriting. There’s an interesting interview with him here and I have recently purchased the book Storyteller (L. Benedict-Jones et al 2014) which is a retrospective of over seventy-five of his works. It’s a delight to read and look at and I notice that he uses a mix of cursive and block letters. Is this even his own writing? Does it matter? I did experiment whilst completing exercise 2.3 – using my own writing (exporting to my iPad and writing over an image that way) and then a font of my handwriting which I acquired a while ago. My handwriting can be very untidy but the font seemed to work better. Even so my writing isn’t as distinctive as that of Duane Michals which is perhaps, in any case, the charm of his work.
In the event, I decided I would certainly want to use this method in the future but adding my own handwriting didn’t seem suitable for Assignment 2 because I already had handwritten letters and photographs with inscriptions on the back that I could use.
The photographer Angela Kelly used images from her family album with maps, letters and other material to ’reference issues of migration, home and the vernacular album’ in her work Sundays at Sea . Her situation had been similar to mine in having an absent father, a sailor, although his absence was his full-time employment. What came through to me, though, was her mention of the drifting apart because he had so often been absent. My father was virtually absent for two years – a long time in a child’s life – yet his letters formed a bridge between us. A PDF of some of my notes on Kelly’s work is attached, including notes on a Photoparley Interview (5th June 2013) where she provides a detailed analysis of her approach to her work.
I read this work at the time then it went out of my mind until I was reminded of it recently by a fellow student who remarked on the similarities with my developing work. I had already begun to experiment with maps as part of the layering and it’s interesting how other artist’s work can lie in one’s subconscious to the extent that it’s difficult to remember where and how an idea was first sparked. Looking at my notes again there are two aspects that leap out at me – ‘layers of different material within an image need to be decoded ‘ and the use of frames, within a frame, within a frame – ‘framing can give importance”. Regarding frames, was I making a wrong decision for my book?
Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood (2011) is a general inspiration for me. His book was the first one where I was aware how a real story could be re-constructed using found material – archive material and new photographs – a mix of genres utilized, de-constructing and re-constructing. This is what I’d like to be doing in the future and I know that this Assignment has been just one step along the way, plus I’m hoping that I might feel freer, less inhibited with less personal material.
Larry Sultan’s work has been an inspiration for a different reason. The book Here and Home (R. Morse et al, 2014) was published alongside an Exhibition of the same name organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Exhibition was the first retrospective of Larry Sultan’s work and there is a long interview with him here. His work has a spontaneity about it that I can only aspire to at this stage. So far as the Assignment is concerned it was the series Pictures from Home (1983-92) that drew me of course and his introduction to it in the book. My interest in taking photographs began years after my parents died. My father enjoyed using his camera and my mother and I were happy to pose for him, as were Sultan’s parents for him. I found it so refreshing that they trusted him enough to go along with whatever he wanted to do. Sultan writes about being in his parents’ home, they having gone to bed, and thinking about why he continues to take photographs of his parents. These words resound for me:
These are my parents. From that simple fact, everything follows. I realize that beyond the rolls of film and the few good pictures, the demands of my project and my confusion about its meaning, is the wish to take photography literally. To stop time. I want my parents to live forever. (Morse et al 2014:78)
Benedict-Jones, L., Ellenzweig, A., Gubar, M., Kozloff, M., Ryan, A., Schuman, A. and Art, C.M. of (2014b) Storyteller: The photographs of Duane Michals. Munich, Germany: Prestel.
Morse, R., Philips, S. and Gefter, P. (2014) Larry Sultan: Here and home. Munich, Germany: Prestel.Patterson, C. (2011) Redheaded Peckerwood. 2nd edn. London: Mack.