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

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‘night train to sapa ’

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Good morning!

I received Emily’s photograph September 28nd 2013. Having followed her blog, from the beginning, I had often thought what would I do if I were asked to put together a piece for this collaboration.

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Emily invited me to participate and I was sent the photograph to interpret from my point of view. My first thought was, I’m looking at a full moon at night viewed from a moving train. The image reminded me of an overnight trip on a local train from Hanoi to Sapa in Northern Vietnam. I lay on a steel plank on the bottom bunk. I shared the compartment with five other people.  It was dark. Flashes of light came in through the window. Metal against metal screeched. Strange smells, sights and sounds of humans asleep came at me for what turned out to be a long nightmarish night. I kept my mind occupied by writing a poem in my head. When I returned home, I made ‘night train to sapa town’ first into a poem and then into an Artists’ Book printed on handmade paper. The poem became the basis for this project.

I started my project with a series of charcoal sketches of the night sky, which were drawn in the middle of the night.

Thinking of the train ride and Emily’s image, it’s shapes and connotations, I took some photographs.  ‘Full Moon Over the City’ and ‘Steel and Wood’ built towards my final painting,  Three paintings later, I was satisfied with ‘Good morning. Would you like a cup of tea?’ (acrylic on canvas measuring 32” x  32”) click on image to enlarge

Personal connections are happening here. Participating artists are commenting on each other’s work. One artist included a photograph; another artist added a leaf with a message written on it.  Added to this collection, was a tiny four-leaf clover from an artist in Belgium. Now, I am adding my admission ticket to Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi. I carefully put back, into the original envelope, the photograph and it’s companion pieces. The photograph is ready to continue it’s journey.

If you would like to participate in the journey of this photograph take a look here.

To find out more about how this project started visit Emily’s blog.
To visit my blog go to http://carlasaunders.com/

Thank you, Emily. Your project took me to a new place in my art.  I really enjoyed the ride.

 

Missing

Emily’s photograph arrived while I was away. I was on a road trip with my wife and son down to San Diego and back. We’d spent the better part of two weeks covering the West Coast, and the date stamped on the notice from the post office tells me her picture arrived while I was somewhere in the Sacramento Valley. As the mail carrier knocked on my door, I was likely speeding through sere grasslands toward the foothills, where our little hatchback would grumble as the elevation gained and the big rigs hauling fruit and spools of cable toward the border would groan even louder.

Or maybe we hadn’t made it that far yet. The miles, as they multiplied, also subdivided, erased in the haze of the wide, torrid valleys. For all our speed we were moving slowly, and all our distance had taken us, it seemed, nowhere. And this is just what we had needed after a few hard years, to unravel in this slowness and be washed by the land rushing past. To not be, as on a plane, exempt from the unprivileged points between beginnings and ends. Yet not entirely subject to the frictions of distance either.

The interstate we travelled for miles and days through California and Oregon passes near where we live, where Emily’s photograph has arrived on this stop of its journey. Under the overpass where the interstate crosses the ship canal there is a small homeless camp, one of countless camps under bridges and unclaimed spaces inside and around the city. Regularly, tents appear in that dark trapezoid like mushrooms that some invisible hand later culls so that one day, I see on a walk to the park with my son, they are gone—at least until they spring up again.

Missing (I)

A guy once told me on a city bus, when the buses were still free downtown, that he and his wife, who was napping beside him, wouldn’t go to the shelters anymore. He said it was better to camp out, even during the rain, and bet the police that would eventually come and kick them out would do so without hauling them to jail. “The shelters aren’t safe,” he said, “too many things happen there. And we can cook outside. We just went to the camping store and got a bunch of propane. Anything you bring to the shelter just gets taken by somebody. Outside, we at least can take our chances.”

Missing (II)

A wall can be a barrier and a shelter. I realize more and more the ways we can connect and go missing. This photograph found me, away, almost as easily as it might have found someone down the street in the building with my street number’s middle digits reversed—3621 instead of 3261, the error of a mail carrier daydreaming. But it was a hot summer’s day, we would have said, and his thoughts were climbing over a wall, taking their chances. Maybe they were and maybe we would have, having seen them before ourselves, inching upward, into the foothills of their own belief.

Missing (III)

Meanwhile…

Original photograph by Emily Hughes

Original photograph by Emily Hughes

Emily’s photograph currently resides in Beckenham (a London suburb, or a town on the fringes of Kent depending on your point of view), on our dining table. The photograph is a delicate thing and handling it makes me worry protectively at its ephemeral nature and about its onward journey, but hey it made it from Canada to here (thanks, Karen!).

It’s been both fascinating and daunting to see artworks accumulate around the project’s central image. For my own contribution I wanted to make a work that could not exist without Emily’s photograph; I deliberately set out to make an adjunct to it.

My immediate question on receiving the package was what was going on on the train when Emily took her shot. So, I got on the train to find out.

Meanwhile (inside spread), 2013

Once I started photographing people in the carriage, I realised it was their hands that would tell my story. And a book seemed like an appropriate way to go form-wise. Over several days, I took a lot of surreptitious photographs of hands. These I narrowed down to a “top ten”, which became the recto pages of the book. Aside from the title page and a basic colophon there is no text in the book. It’s constructed from inkjet card, double-sided coated paper and a couple of staples.

Here are a few of the original shots:

Page 8

Page 5

Page 10

* * *

I wonder where this photograph will travel to next. The journey hasn’t been completely mapped out yet. If you would like to participate in the project take a look here.
If you want to know more about how Journey of a Photograph started visit Emily’s blog. To visit my blog go here.

It has been a pleasure to guest edit as part of this project. Thank you very much, Emily!

Images 2-6 © Richard Guest, 2013

Whistle Stop #2

original photograph by Emily Hughes

original photograph by Emily Hughes

The journey of this photograph continues. It sits in physical form, almost pristine, on the desk in front of me as I write this. It is traveling from one set of hands to another, picking up fingerprints, bits of dust, and when it arrived to me so carefully wrapped, I found upon close inspection, that this printed photograph had picked up tiny smudges of red pigment, or wax (please read the previous post to discover how this might have happened).
Traces from the journeying.

This is precisely why the photograph is traveling. It wants a history. It wants to be handled and those little smudges are so much a part of it now.

The photograph is also meant to inspire. To become part of a visual conversation. When it arrived on my doorstep a few days before I was going on a short journey myself, I took it as a sign that the photograph was meant to travel with me. The fact that I was to travel by train seemed as old-fashioned as a printed black and white photograph.
It was meant to be.

These are the images I offer in response to Emily’s photograph. They are also about journeying. About those fast-passing moments that somehow etch themselves in our minds. Fleeting moments of fleeting seasons viewed through a train window.

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When I think about all the journeying I have done over the years, the images that flicker through my mind are often about the getting there rather than the being there. Momentary observations along the way and impressions of the places I’ve glimpsed.

The gentle rattle and hum of being. Watching the world as it awakens from winter; trees blossoming, earth greening, sun shining. Moments of bliss.

At the time of writing, I have no idea where this photograph will be traveling next. It could be to you. If you would like to participate in the journey of this photograph take a look here.
To find out more about how this project started visit Emily’s blog.
To visit my blog go here.

I am honoured to be guest posting as part of this project. Thank you, Emily!

Colour images © Karen McRae, 2013

Journeyings

The photograph’s first stop on its journey occurs in the middle of America, in Wichita KS at the home/work spaces of Holly Suzanne and Nathan FilbertEkphrastix Arts.  We were happy to welcome the photograph from its creator, Emily Hughes,  as it begins its journey throughout the world as an ekphrastic object – traveling from artist to artist to inspire work and alter as a work in itself through posting, handling, and use (follow its life or join in its progress at Journey of a Photograph).

Here is what our hands and minds have made with/of it…Holly worked with encaustic and mixed media to create the collaged pieces, and I worked with paper and pen and then personal computer to create the texts that accompany.  The first image is a copy of the photograph from Emily.

Journeying

photograph by Emily Hughes

text by Nathan Filbert

8x10 mixed media/encaustic by Holly Suzanne

text by Nathan Filbert

11x14 encaustic / mixed media by Holly Suzanne

text by Nathan Filbert

texts were composed with the visual works and this audio from Ludovico Einaudi:

Again, to follow the travels and creations of this photograph visit Journey of a Photograph

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to see more work by Emily Hughes, please visit searchingtosee.com

for more of Holly Suzanne’s work, browse here, as well as Life in Relation to Art and her Gallery of Creative Artistry

for more by Nathan Filbert, visit The Whole Hurly Burly

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.