Tag Archives: family archive

A few thoughts about the family archive

This is more of a place holder than anything, as it is something I want to consider during my next module. I have been charged with sorting out my Father-in-Law’s many, many photo albums, and whittling them down to a size which might actually be appreciated as a memento for the family. He was a keen photographer in his middle years, although not particularly artistic in his composition and framing, nor technique. Having gone through about ten albums now, a definite theme is appearing. He liked taking photographs of the places he visited on holiday and also the flowers and trees around where he lived (he still does live there, but is now staying in a care home). However, looking at them from the point of view of either his children or a friend, the number of images that have any value is extremely limited. I have pulled out hundreds of photos of various holiday destinations in the UK and Europe, and am concentrating on keeping the ones with family and friends in them, and also images of the local area which might be of historic interest outside the immediate family.

It has made me think again about why we take the photographs we do, and how many of my 50,000 odd images my own family might be interested in keeping. Probably not very many, and if they are anything like me, the ones which they will want to keep are the images of loved ones. And after a couple of generations, even these will be of only passing interest as records of the facial appearance of our ancestors. Not a very happy thought.

However, just to make use of some of the discarded ones, I am keeping them and in due course will use them for collage pieces, possibly in the style of Joe Rudko, who treats old photos as the raw materials for beautiful patchwork style collages. In the same way that women in the past kept old clothes to make patchwork quilts, I will use the old photos to make something new. It seems fitting, bearing in mind all the work and expense my FIL went to in making his records.

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In search of my mojo

Somehow, over the last couple of months, my enthusiasm for coursework and even photography has disappeared and I need to find a way back into it. So yesterday, just for fun, I met up with fellow student kate513940 to do some work using her die cutting machine. She has been playing with ideas on her own blog and Instagram feed (ref) here, and we spent the morning talking over ideas and trying some different techniques. Here are a couple of images of what we were doing.

We discussed the difficulties of making work that avoided being too twee (image 2 falls into that category) and bemoaned the fact that the great majority of die templates available are produced for the card-making market with its associated connotations, and wondered whether it might be possible to commission one’s own dies. (Something to look into). We also talked about how both of us are interested in how the image can be utilised and manipulated as a physical object. For example, I produced this study when I got home, using a photograph I took while travelling in Cambodia last year, along with a die and a cut piece.

p1530983v2

I need to think about how these concepts might be expanded for use within my degree work in a meaningful way.

One of the points we considered was something Kate had been told by a die-cutting friend, which was that if one is going to cut up photographs and other items (as the machine can be used on all sorts of flat items from tin foil to fabric), then the base item should have a personal meaning. I liked the concept that playing around and practising on various media is just that – practise-, but that to create something serious should mean cutting and refashioning/repurposing something to which you have an emotional attachment, and by doing that you are both honouring the value of the original object and making something artistic instead of crafty. This resonates with what I was doing earlier in the course on family archives and how they can be re-examined over time as chronotypes, and my interest in making work which is about subjects that are personally meaningful.

Moving away from physical objects, we also considered the use of Instagram in the light of a couple of links we have been discussing over on the Facebook forum.

http://blog.michaelclarkphoto.com/?p=5645

https://petapixel.com/2016/12/23/im-full-time-photographer-instagram-heres/

There are some interesting considerations within these two posts about how we use our social media accounts to reinforce our work or not (and in the latter case, even to sabotage it, unthinkingly). I was very impressed by Sam Vox’s clearly thought through strategy for his Instagram account; his internal consistency of subject matter and colour palette has added the extra dimension to his work which differentiates it from the vast majority of Instagram accounts. To this end, I have now divided my fledgling Instagram presence into two account, a public one at eleanorrigby1212 and a more personal one, where I try out different styles of work at hollywoodward2017. Come to think of it, I should probably swap over the names.

Part of the current problem is that I am struggling to deal with the idea that in order to become known as a photographer one generally has to produce work that is accessible to the great majority, and the obvious way of achieving that is through social media. But given that the great majority only judge images on the basis of a single quick glance and don’t stop to consider anything more than the immediate appeal (beauty) of the image, much of the more interesting work gets overlooked. I am not interested in setting up a photography practice, so in theory that should matter to me, but somehow it does. To compound this issue, I have been asked by a member of the Royal Photographic Society to give a talk at one of their Western Region meetings on how doing a degree in photography alters the mindset away from “camera club” style images, and have been thinking through some of the ideas I want to address. I will do a separate post on that, as it is very much an ongoing and unfinished project at present.

Furthermore, I am involved in a collaborative “hive” project called Grey Matters along with several other OCA students, where we supply a variety of single images focussing in the idea of the colour grey. They clearly have to be self-explanatory, although we can give each image a title. Thinking this through, I reckon the issue I have to address is the difference between a single image, which has to carry all the necessary contextualization within itself, and the series, where there is time for the meaning to become apparent over several photographs. This is where I must take my research forward in the next unit.