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

Lost in the mist of time

I got the photo today. It was inside an envelope covered in layers of address labels, stamps and scan labels. Layers of history, not ancient but recent history, at least within the last year. A photo too is a record of history, and this particular photo made by Emily is intriguing. Every time I saw it on the blog it seemed to say the same thing, and now I have it in my hands it still says the same thing. Emily writes that she took the photo over 10 years ago whilst on a journey, and many of the writers and artists who have received the photo have interpreted that journey as a train ride. To me too it seems it was taken from a train. It is dark, ambiguous, mysterious. Those circles of light are like lost souls waiting, watching the train passing. Lost souls from the past waiting… for what? Perhaps they are a family waiting for the return of their father from the war. Perhaps they are just waiting, because that’s what happens at train stations. Now forgotten faces, always waiting, immortalized in the photo. The two hexagon shapes in the sky one light and one dark like two suns, as if suggesting life and death, creation and destruction.

This is Emily’s photo.

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I made a collage using layers of newspaper, not ancient but recent history, and over sharpened it with a photo editor.  This is  “Lost in the Mists of Time”.

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I normally work with mosaic and sometimes mosaic animation, but as I started out in collage and photomontage, it was a refreshing change to make a collage for this project! To see my blog visit katerattray.wordpress.com

My website is www.rattraymosaics.co.uk

Journey of a Photograph is a collaborative project invented by Emily Hughes.

If you would like to take part in this project you can sign up here

‘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.

 

Be faithful Go

The Photograph greeted me as a neatly packaged risk.

Unlike the poets and artists of different times and geographies whose work could bring about imprisonment or worse, my work takes very little risk. And yet art reminds me relentlessly that faith is rudiment to creation, even at the level of imaginary stakes, the mostly self-imposed type. What is at stake?

The Photograph’s owner has released this fragile art piece into several unknown hands. One of the writers who held it before me is someone I have not met in person, but whose writings I have read for over a year now, who faithfully reads my writings and offers me resonant references to literature and theory. We have a textual connection in virtual space, but the shared physicality of the Photograph closes our geographical impossibility into a more intimate interstice. As such, the more hands the Photograph passes through, the more beauty, the more meaning it seems to accumulate. An intermediary to creation and inspiration, the Photograph is becoming ever more sanctified. Far from Walter Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction whereby a photograph loses its aura, this Photograph is gathering preciousness.

The more precious it feels in my hands, the more devastating it is to imagine its loss or destruction. And still, the more artists and writers like me who create from it, the more it is open to chance, to misfortune, and easily could slip away.

I know artists must gamble on welcome, as George Steiner says. Yes, those who arrive at the boardinghouse of life may bring loss or death — “but without a gamble on welcome, no door can be opened when freedom knocks.”

These words grow truer as I move into my middle years. I have come to know deeply the amazing array of possibility spanning all colorful forms of tragedy and fortune. At the same time, life seems to have fastened to itself more attachments (my family and friends, my nest, my belongings which need more belongings) so as to stir up an existential quandary for even the most mundane of choices. What happens to my body/career/relationships if I have another child? What if a stroke of orange ruins that entire painting? What if my idea turns out wrong, if nobody understands it? The door is getting heavier, and I find myself turning into that old, lonesome woman who cracks it open just enough to turn away the unknown.

Photography I, by Summer Lee and Karen and Adam Hathaway

Tonight in my studio in San Francisco, my collaborators, Karen and Adam Hathaway and I used the Photograph to question with a hopeful openness, to ask what-if’s along an artistic exploration: What if we do this with the Photograph? What if we do that? The more possibilities we supported each other in trying, the more we stood guard over each other’s freedom.

Here are a few of our images, and a few I made myself — all taken before I send the Photograph into the next unknown pair of hands. And from there, who knows.

Journey Photograph by Summer Lee, Karen and Adam Hathaway, 2013

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(The Photograph projected into the fog over the Pacific Ocean.)

The Photograph has stood guard over me and my freedom to creatively fumble or fly. It echoes the same sentiment found in Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry, a man who knew great loss was sometimes the price of great work, that one must strive for justice and beauty even when the sacred collapses. They both utter:

Be faithful Go.

Journey Photograph, by Summer Lee 2013.

(Photograph projected over a Willa Cather quotation from a page torn out of a book on happiness.)

Zbiegniew Herbert’s full poem is here:

The Envoy of Mr. Cogito
BY ZBIGNIEW HERBERT
TRANSLATED BY BOGDANA CARPENTER AND JOHN CARPENTER

Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever you hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let your sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards—they will win
they will go to your funeral and with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown’s face in the mirror
repeat: I was called—weren’t there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak

light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don’t need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant—when the light on the mountains gives the sign—arise and go
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way will you be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes

Be faithful Go

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

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)