About searchingtosee

I like taking pictures, and writing about them.

hiatus

I am sorry to report that the ‘journey of a photograph’ has endured an unscheduled and lengthy delay under my stewardship. It is time to make amends.

After waiting for over a year for the project to find its way to my corner of the world, a large and clearly well-travelled package arrived at the end of April 2015 and as I excitedly examined its contents I wondered at the vignettes of life this ‘thing’ had witnessed on its journey and the dreams, stories and creative responses it had inspired. I drank it in over several days, picking amongst the imagery and ephemera that it had accumulated, like barnacles on the bottom of ship, adding weight and mass, altering the dynamics of the original form.

It is not a pretty package; it wears its travels wearily and honestly, revealing fragments of the journey as it is opened, and proceeds to spill out its contents unceremoniously, like the entrails of an unceremonious disemboweling. The analogy continues, despite its unpleasantness, as it is then impossible to avoid looking closer at the entrails and wonder at their meaning. It may not be pretty, but it is truly fascinating.

A week or so later in early May my father was diagnosed with cancer. Everything stopped. My ability to wonder ceased.

He passed away within the month. Too late to do anything about the cancers that had been stealthily occupying new territories over the years, we used the last of our time to say the things we now describe as our ‘goodbyes’ and reminisced across history. For this I feel incredibly lucky; many do not get this chance or have not got the words to say their piece.

The package sat aside my desk during the months that followed. I thought little, if anything about it, except maybe a little guilt. I struggled to resume working on personal projects and did nothing for a long time. The package continued to sit aside my desk accusingly.

When I first examined the contents of the package back in April, I had toyed with the idea of making something exquisite – a real feast for the eyes that would rest amongst the photos, letters, postcards and assorted ephemera – something that didn’t follow anything else and hopefully leave others to wonder. I also considered making copies of everything and binding them together in a book. I thought of a few things I might do, all of which died with my father.

The package has since taken on a new significance for me. It no longer represents an opportunity for a creative response or engaging visual addition. It has taken a long time for me to put this into words that come anywhere close to conveying my thoughts. What you are reading right now is the third draft of the fourth attempt. These previous attempts were either ‘too much of’ or ‘not enough of’ something or other, and found their way into the ever growing pile of digitally scrunched up documents that was building up around the trashcan icon on my screen.

I have taken a very different approach to this journey of a photograph. I have decided share a little of my emotions and explain why the project has stalled under my stewardship. I have also added a small picture of my father to the package in order to let him see a little more of the world. All things pass. Pass it on.

SKINNER (2)

Christopher Skinner, Norfolk UK

January 2016

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From Banff National Park, Canada

I first learned of the Journey of a Photograph project from my dear friend the artist, Summer Lee. I knew little of the project, only that it was a photograph traveling around the world to various artists who would then use the photo to inspire their own work in some way. I didn’t read the blog or other’s interpretations or actions with the photograph prior to receiving the package. Which also means I didn’t read Emily’s first post with the image showing the photograph itself. On some level this was intentional, a method to respond first to the materiality of the photo rather than the aura created by its journey. I was intrigued by Emily’s concept and its potential because of the physicality of the project; I would receive something in the mail that many other people have touched, lived with, or altered in their own specific environment and I would then become part of that story.

The package arrives to me amidst my own nomadic two years. I left a job in Montreal in December 2013 and have been traveling to various artist residency programs since that time. The photograph arrived in Massachusetts for the holidays to commence the brief overlap of our journeys. My idea was for the photo to accompany me to my next artist residency located in Banff, Alberta where I would then respond with my own contribution. The day came when the packaged photo and I took a plane together from Boston via Minneapolis, finally landing in Calgary. We had an easy flight and after a night at the airport hotel, took off on a bus to the Banff National Park, home to the artist residency program. On my second day at The Banff Centre, I opened the package and posted the contents to my studio wall. I had only expected one photo, but enclosed were ferry tickets, museum passes, maps, words, and other photos. I was reluctant to reference the blog so early in the process, but how was I to decipher which photograph was “the” photograph?

The contents of the package and the photo itself all hang above my studio desk where I have now been for nearly two weeks. My window overlooks snowy mountains, treetops, and the majestic castle-like structure alone on the a mountain known as the Banff Springs Hotel. After a few days of contemplating these artifacts and potential five photos that could be “the” photo, I began reading the blog. I became enthralled with the lives of the people who previously were in possession of the photo and the life of the photo itself. I wondered about Laura and her health, I thought about Summer at the moment when the photo entered her life knowing how much has changed since then. I considered Emily’s interlude reunion with the photograph one year ago. I also wonder about the photo itself. Does it ever, like I do, get a little tired of always being on an adventure? Does it long for a singular space to rest, knowing full well that its destiny is to travel?

When I first held the photograph (yes, “the” intended photograph), I was reminded of the Marfa Lights. A phenomenon in Western Texas where sphere-shaped lights colored red, orange, yellow, and white hover and dart on the horizon line of the desert sky. The lights are thought to be either paranormal activity or reflections from a distant highway. Having viewed them first hand while spending one summer in Marfa, I can’t be sure what they are. But I like the mystery and the colors superimposed over the landscape and the continued curiosity they bring. As I look at the photograph and read about its travels, I note that many people are careful with the object itself. Yes, of course, on some level there is a responsibility to not be the person who ruins the photo or the journey. But in thinking about collaborative art, I am surprised no one has yet to intervene on the actual photograph. Many have scanned the image and then altered it or used its likeness in other mediums. But what about the materiality? I feel the inclination to respond to the object, on the object. To alter it in some way, a way that could risk everything. An intervention adding to the layers of meaning directly to the immediacy of the photo. After two years of traveling, would the photograph like a new hairstyle? (even just a trim?) Transformation can be devastating, but it can also make way for a rebirth.

I have decided to intervene on the photograph. But I will not show the image here. It will be a mystery for the next recipient of the package. So even if they are devoted to the blog and know the image by heart, it will not be what they are expecting.

As I send the photo on its way, I am including a small orange flag. The flag references my last project in which I spent six months living and developing an educational project on Fogo Island in Newfoundland, Canada. In short, not too long ago, flags were placed atop houses that were to be relocated or “launched” to another community. The flag indicated to neighbors that help was needed to get the house on its way, so community members would arrived at the sight of the flag and depending on the structure, the house would travel to its new home either by land, sea, or ice. So I add the little orange flag as a small prayer…let helpful neighbors get you to your next home little photo!

Thank you Emily for allowing me to join this journey and take a moment within my practice to consider mystery, transformation, and the power of one photo to creatively influence people around the world.

Nicole Lattuca

 

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destination

please let me know if you are interested in becoming a contributor to the journey!

searchingtosee

travel on diptych3

The journey of a photograph is looking for new participants. It has been such a creative and inspiring journey, but it’s not ready to end yet. Currently the photograph resides in New Zealand, and although I’m sure it’s enjoying it’s little sojourn there by the beach with Maureen of  kiwissoar (and how envious I am of it), it needs to move on to new destinations. If you are an artist, writer, photographer, or any other type of uncategorisable creative being (aren’t they the best types?) and think you might have something to add to the journey, please contact me , or sign up via the blog. Contributions have been varied and unique, each and every one,  from solargraphs to mosaics, and poetry: check out the blog to see where the photograph has been and what it has inspired thus far. I can promise your practice and even your…

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Interlude

Interlude final

‘Interlude’

The Journey final

‘The Journey’

The intimate is not a space but a relationship between spaces.

– Beatriz Colomina

I was forced, recently, to take a break from blogging. Not really by choice, but because life burst forth in a relentless tidal wave of busyness (as it does every year at the same time), and something had to give. However, I have been continuing to make pictures, and the past few months has been a process of consolidation and gathering together of things which I have been thinking about and working on for a long time, years even. I have not made any ‘new’ pictures as such; it is the nature of photography that you can be extremely prolific when you are clicking a button (that’s the easy part), yet it’s the editing that take the time; the drawing together the threads of the narrative and the sifting through the rubble to seek out those lustrous gems. It has been more a process of looking back, reflecting, and relentless revision, which at times has been tedious and painful, but also extremely necessary and ultimately rewarding, because it has brought some clarity of thinking, and more importantly, some direction.

Many participants in the collaborative Journey of a Photograph project, which I initiated back in February of last year, have commented on the ‘layers’ which the photograph has gathered as it travels from participant to participant in far-flung corners of the globe. An enviable journey it has made so far, hopping from Ottawa to London to LA to Brussels, to name a few destinations. The description of the Winter Garden photograph, which Barthes writes of in the opening of Camera Lucida, opens the blog. With its faded sepia print and blunted corners this photograph was for Barthes a symbol of time past, and it proudly wore its scars in the way that a treasured piece of furniture might gather and wear the scrapes and knocks of everyday familial use – the ‘battle scars’ of age. But this photograph – my photograph – isn’t really old yet. Or at least the reproduction of it is not. The image itself was taken over 10 years ago when I was a different person; a different version of ‘me’.

The photograph - Jan 2014

‘The photograph’ – January 2014

I think that when people are writing about, and indeed responding to the ideas of these layers in their own work in many, many wonderfully different and creative ways (which I will save for another discussion on the blog), they are thinking about the significance that this photograph (as opposed to a photograph, a regular reproduction) – which has become more than just a photograph but a whole package (or ‘a neatly packaged risk’ – as summed up perfectly by Summer Lee) – is gathering. With each journey it becomes a bit more precious, and a bit more unique. The package itself; a patchwork of stamps and postmarks wrapped with industrial amounts of sellotape, is becoming more fragile. It is creating its own memory and its own history. However, this is not a history which is a natural cause of time passing, but a shared history forced through intervention. The photograph, and the many beautiful and thoughtful ‘things’ it has inspired and instigated and accumulated along the way on its journey; the package it has become, which binds a disparate little group of bloggers and artists and writers together, is a very public and self-conscious history. This is of course in marked contrast to the private history represented by Barthes’ Winter Garden photograph.

This project has made me look upon the role of photography and memory is a new way, crystallising many ongoing ideas I have had about photography and objects and memory; giving them form, physicality and practice. But it has also forced me to look at my own past and more specifically my past work with fresh eyes. I started the project off with an image I took when I was in my 20s studying for my MA. It was part of a series of images on the subject of what I called ‘in-between space’. In this case the ‘non-space’ of the motorway journey. It seemed to fit the theme, but I wasn’t really sure why I chose that image when I sent it off. Now I think I understand a bit better. I used to feel I had ‘moved on’ from it all, maybe even a little embarrassed at the immaturity of my earlier work, however doing this project has made me realise that it was and remains yet very much an important part of me. Even though now I wouldn’t make that work in the same way, it is still relevant. If it is still ‘me’, it is a ghost, a shadow of me which contains a small kernel of what I am now, and what I will be. The picture I chose I described as ‘nondescript’, I think, in my post. It had something in it which I thought could become something, but which wasn’t quite up to it by itself, wasn’t quite there yet, and I think that’s why I was drawn to it. I was never entirely happy with what that project became. It almost felt like it was stranded in mid-air…. It was as if I knew I needed to go back to it, and perhaps this was my way of doing that.

So, I would like to thank you all for adding your layers, each and every one, and for helping me get to where I am now. Some of you have commented on how the project has revived, or even changed your practice. Well, this is certainly the case for me. I also feel that, more significantly, within the very public and impersonal ‘in-between’ space of the internet, and over vast distances, we have succeeded in creating a shared space of intimacy represented by this little package, and of course this blog. Something which I tried to realise 10 years ago, but was unable to.

Now that life is finding its way back to a more manageable ebb and flow, I am resuming my blogging journey. The photograph too will journey on again – it is not yet ready to relinquish its voyage of discovery. It sits on my desk as I type, this neat little package. I seized the opportunity created by a lull in the project to bring it back home to me, and I’m glad that I did as it’s quite comforting to have it here, to open it and absorb for myself the little treasures and keepsakes which have been entrusted to it. I have also added my own little token to the package, and now I look forward, with renewed enthusiasm, to what the next phase of the project brings. I think, perhaps, we both just needed a bit of a break.

The images at the start of this post are from a series I have been working on over the past couple of months called ‘Horizon’.

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

The journey

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I have sent the photograph today. Here is a little bit about its past life:

It is an old photograph, which started life as a transparency, and I have had re-printed. I took this photograph over 10 years ago now, on an Olympus OM-4. The film was Fuji, but I forget now whether it was velvia or sensia, unfortunately. I took the picture as part of a larger project about in-between spaces. When I was trying to think of a photograph to send on this journey (it seemed an impossible task!), I spent a long time searching around in my brain until I came up with this one. I wanted to send something old which I could make new for the project. Something which already had some history, and personal meaning to me. It was taken whilst on a journey, and so it seemed fitting to use it as a starting point for this project, to be ‘taken’ on a new journey, so to speak.

I hunted down the original slide in the attic. I spent a long while looking at it, and experimenting before I decided to make it black and white. It was originally colour, but the colours were nondescript, which worked for the original project it was included in, but for this I wanted it to be black and white. I can’t really tell you why except that it felt right to change it somehow.

I have dated it today, the beginning of the journey: 10/4/2013, and I scribbled some words on the back:

From A to B, and somewhere in-between… these are the spaces which haunt my dreams…

They are more of a prompt – some random thoughts – than a title or label of any kind. The photograph is not especially beautiful or memorable. It is not remarkable, or of anywhere, or anything in particular; it is not an identifiable place. It is nowhere.

Let its journey begin.

 

A memory

The photograph was very old. The corners were blunted from having been pasted into an album, the sepia print had faded, and the picture just managed to show two children standing together at the end of a little wooden bridge in a glassed-in conservatory, what was called the Winter Garden in those days.

from Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes (p67 of the 2000 Vintage edition)