I've had a few posts recently on some of the photographic oddities that I have collected over the past few years. There are a number of really nice sites out there that cater to these peculiar corners of photo history.
Mourningphotography.com is one such place. For those who are a bit squeamish, this might not be the site for you. But then again there is something quite stunning in the images and in the phenomena of mourning photos. As you look through the photos there you will begin to see certain motifs arise. In the photo offered here, a reduplication of a photo is made. The young girl holds a photo of the deceased person...the photo becomes a surrogate for the once living. It is a tangible reminder of that person. Here is a similar tin-type from my own collection.
Tomorrow I will post another from my own collection with an interesting variable.
The other day I posted a similar string object. This one is about 2.5 times larger than the other and is in better condition. While this one is larger, it is still a similar but more hardy construction. This one also has pins with a significant white head on the star points to hold the threads in place. I was curious about how old the piece is so slid the now stiff threads aside and considerable fading has occurred to the piece. So I know that it is old...just not how old.
When preparing for the MFA exhibition, I was purchasing large photo lots from EBay to fill out the installation pieces. When I would get the lots I would skim through them looking for interesting photos, themes, etc that I would eventually hold back for my own collection. I found this interesting piece on one of those large lots. I've titled this posting "Vintage Photoshopping" as a joke, but there is some photographic trickery going on within the image. My hunch is that this is photographic object is really the combination of 3 different photographs cut and rephotographed and printed.
There are several clues...First, check out the infant...its placement within the photo, the strange highlight on its left side and how the dress is cut on the infants right side all suggest that this is a later addition to the photographs of the couple beneath. Second, I suspect that the images of the couple beneath are really 2 images rather than one. She appears to far forward compared to him. Also, I suspect the images come from different times based on the dress of the two...though I cannot be sure on this. And would these two even be a couple? She appears much younger than him. But there is also something amiss with the lighting...notice how in the center of the image, it is much darker, likely the cause of a little darkroom dodging and burning. Lastly, notice the shadow created from the yellowed photographic object on my whiter background. Now look within the photograph itself. To me, I see a similar shadow burned into the image below the child and in the upper left corner.
To me, all of these little peculiarities seem to add up to a touched up photo that combines multiple objects taken at different times. But why might someone have such a photo made? Could the photo have been made by the gentleman for the child after the mother had passed away? There could have been some years between which might give some reason for the disparity of age and clothing. But alas we do not know.
Over Christmas break on our trip to California, we spent a day up around Sonora. We hit a few antique stores and I happened upon this little hand-made piece. From what I can gather it falls under Victorian string art. It is roughly a star-shaped piece of cardboard with a photo affixed and wound in in some kind of thread. I am guessing that by the kinks in the thread extending above the piece, it was further wound but has become undone. The second photo shows the complexity of the string winding.
While I really dont know much about this type of art yet (as in how it was used etc.), I have found another similar piece which I will post in a few days.
When I left for Cyprus, I really had no idea what I was getting into or what the body of work would look like. I had vague ideas of the human fingerprint upon the landscape and the distance between the contemporary and ancient records made upon/within the landscape.
When I got there, I began looking for how we were marking the land in search for the historical marks. And with this perspective, several shots became especially poignant. This one in particular conveys those ideas. Here the literal footprints imprinted upon the landscape divide two forms of trash: one contemorary, one ancient. Both offer some sort of record of human presence illustrated by the ephemerality of the footprints in the dirt. Here the two worlds become condensed into one shot. What is striking to me about this, is how these ideas pass over into the theory of history, hermeneutics and beyond. Here we can see, literally see, our impact upon our studies. We cannot ignore our our own presence, presumptions, pe within our research.
The photo embodies my hopes for the overall residency, with a touch of humor as well.
The famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson spoke of the "decisive moment" saying, "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever." I have missed hundreds of shots because of this fleeting nature of movement of people, objects, light and any other number of variables. I have also just left the scene of a potential photograph wishing later that I had just shot it. This is one of those photos that I am so glad that I shot.
The cars are essential aspects of the project for getting groceries to hauling the team back and forth to the site, and general travel around the island visiting other sites. They take a beating and need a good cleaning when we are done. But there is something beyond the necessity of the cars that endears this photograph to me. I suppose it is the humor of it...something reminiscent of Elliot Erwitt perhaps. What are the odds that these cars would stop, equal distances among them, and be left on the site with the hatch wide open? It is perhaps the decisive moment in the reco
One of the most striking things to me about this space was the ancient debris littering the surface. It would likely be surprising for North Americans, let alone Iowan's like myself, to find a single piece of an ancient amphora handle in their field. So the sheer volume of pottery shards scattered over the surface was astounding to me. On one of my first trips out to site, my head still floating somewhere over the Atlantic, I sat down in the heat of the afternoon and just began to collect the pieces within an arms reach of where I sat and photographed them. I did this several times finding both fine and coarse ware that had worked itself up to the surface from time, erosion and with the farmers help. I surprised by the density objects on the surface, their diversity, and the very fact that I could pick up these ancient pieces of pottery.
The image above is one of two composites like this that were a part of the show. My hope with these images was to record my first engagements with the ubiquitous debris at this site in a non-scientific or archaeological sense. Instead to suggest the wonder in a Iowa farmers son at the geographic and temporal distance between the hands that made these objects and my own now holding them.
One of the things about being a photographer is that you rarely get your photo taken. While photographers may produce a significant record and documentation by virtue of their presence, they are not often explicitly imaged. Occasionally the amateur photographer will accidentally capture his or her shadow or reflection in a window, but these are largely unintended. However with this photo, which is one of my favorites from the series, purposefully includes my shadow at the center of the image. In doing so, I am attempting to take a reflexive stance that acknowledges the subjectivity of the photographic enterprise, which becomes a sort of analog to the presence of the archaeologist in the field.
Beyond the conceptual aspects, I love how the shadow breaks the image in half, while the two tire tracks of the road lead off to the right, that angle is in some ways mirrored by the dual poles of the fallen sign jutting off to the left with both the road and one of the poles terminating at the horizon.
Back in high school, my advanced photography class went on a field trip from Orange City, Iowa down to Omaha, NE for a long day of photography. En route to Omaha, we pulled over at a rest stop/junk yard of sorts as it seemed like an interesting place to photograph. I found this old car from the 50's and spent a good deal of time photographing it inside and out. I happened to notice the little St. Christopher pin (above) tacked to the visor. Now when no one was around I snagged it and tossed it into my camera bag where it stayed for about 10 years before it was moved into another camera bag. Last year, it made its way out of the camera bag and onto my desk where it has sat until this weekend when we decided it was time to clean up the office.
I grew up not knowing much about saints and such objects. It was quite a while after I had nicked this little pin that I found out what St. Christopher was really known as the patron saint of travelers. So when we were in Cyprus in 2009, we were sitting at this great little restaurant called Kalifatzia's and noticed the sign across the way.
Today, in continuing with the process of uploading my work to this new website, I finally got around to tackling the PKAP AIR series that I named Topos/Chora. It is hard to believe that the residency was over 2 years ago already. And over those years I have created a great number of other series, to the point that past work is quickly left behind under the demands of the MFA program. So it was a joy to pull out the images again and look at them as old friends that I've not seen in a while.
Today in viewing them in my home office on the third floor of our apartment building, I look out upon two gloriously green trees (one within feet of my window) and I am struck by the contrast of these greens to the ubiquitous browns of the images. Often the only islands of color in the images are the buckets or clothing, and even that is scarce when the the khaki team t-shirts are paired with khaki pants. But even this still suggests my overall conceptual goal of the project as a reflexive perspective of humanity in the landscape.
Over the next few weeks I hope to spend a little time with these images again, and share some thoughts about my favorites.