In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that either explores the
family album and its iconography or reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.
Produce a series of six photographs (these can be photo montage, staged photography,work using found images, work including images from your own family archives, etc.)which reference the family album in some way.
Produce a 500-word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you choose the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)
I started this exercise by re-watching the Youtube video by Norwegian artist Vibeke Tandberg’s experimental self-portraiture which employed photomontage techniques. Whilst watching the video I started to experience an anxiety attack; this was caused by the lighting techniques and the video cross fading used by Tanberberg. This was the same form of unexplainable anxiety which I experienced when I first saw “Le Drapeau noir [The Black Flag]”(1937) by Rene Magritte and again with “Guernica” (1937) by Picasso. The sheer unworldliness of the images pushes me, the viewer, off balance.
After sitting and reviewing my options and having had a quick chat with Russell, my Tutor, I decided that because I have little to no family images that I would use found images, either straight from the internet and image sharing sites, or to obtain some actual images from flea markets, auctions or book sellers. I then reviewed the work of Erik Kessells and Joachim Schmid, who both have used found images within their work.
I am inspired by the work of Erik Kessells as he inserts personality into the lost image works by giving the people within the images names and backgrounds, which then influence how we the viewer see the people within the work. Not only has Kessell curated the images by selecting the images he wanted to buy, but then curated them further by choosing which images he would publish. Once these images as seen the viewer then curates the work by choosing which of the images they themselves wish to look at and examine further. Of course, by choosing some groups of images, the choice may not always suit the social values of the viewer which pushes the comfortability factor further, and which will ensure that some people will chose to edit out that particular exhibition or work entirely.
With this in mind, I obtained a small number of found images, which give me a limited range of images to work with; they were mainly family images which would appear to have come straight out of a family album or book. It was quite difficult at first to make a selection from such a small range of images, as they did not flow but stuttered and jumped through time and space. Therefore I was careful to chose which images I wanted and how they would be ordered, as I was not working as the curator and the guide to the people, culture and society within the images.
What I found interesting was, that in all the images that I received, only one had been marked with the name of the people photographed and the date. All of the other images were unmarked and the individuals and places within unidentified.
Another thing which I noticed in the photographs was that there were no images of the father of the child, who was identified as Philip Davies on the rear of one image. All of the images are directed by the male gaze and the social model of the UK family in the 1970s.
The proud father photographs the child on its own so that he can have a single image perhaps for is wallet. The rest of the images are someone and child, or just an individual against a background, the figures unposed and in some cases quite rigid, the relaxed culture of photography is not present and frames are not to be wasted.
The images chosen and the principle of the male directed gaze, the father controlling and curating the image before taking it and not being present in the image, can be easily seen with the choices I have made.
The main question I kept asking as I worked was, quite simply does this work, can I get some semblance of order and reality of the chaos of these found images. Like Kessell I found that by imbuing as small amount of personality to the people within the images I could make sense and allow the sequence to work on its own. Certainly the main figure, who I have dubbed, Aelwen had a passion for the colour yellow as seen from her choice of clothes which repeats through part of the sequence of images. So I feel that the choice made works well and pulls together the idea of family album.
Kessel, E. (2008). ERIK KESSELS. [online] ERIK KESSELS. Available at: https://www.erikkessels.com/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2020].
LensCulture, Joachim Schmid (2019). Celebrating Photographic Garbage – Photographs found by Joachim Schmid | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/joachim-schmid-celebrating-photographic-garbage.
Robinson, L. (2015). Pablo Picasso, Guernica – Smarthistory. [online] Smarthistory.org. Available at: https://smarthistory.org/picasso-guernica/.
Schmid, J. (2020). Joachim Schmid – Art, photoworks, books, editions, and everything else. [online] Joachim Schmid. Available at: http://www.lumpenfotografie.de/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2020].
of Scotland, N.G. (2011). Le Drapeau noir [The Black Flag]. [online] National Galleries of Scotland. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/691/le-drapeau-noir-black-flag [Accessed 14 Oct. 2020].
Tandberg, V. (2013). Vibeke Tandberg – Herself – Photography. [online] Youtube.com. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-TcVnnAxl>=&app=desktop [Accessed 14 Oct. 2020].