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 It no longer represents an opportunity for a creative response or engaging visual addition.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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Lines

My small contribution to Journey of a Photograph is now off to its next recipient.

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It’s taken me a while to be ready to make something for this project, in part because of all the travel and work that came between the parcel’s arrival and my own ability to stop and think about what I could add … what would be a suitable and (hopefully) interesting addition to the diversity I found sandwiched in the envelope.

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I wanted to bring something about motion and space and connection to bear here. The Photograph and its travelling companions have been all over the planet, and in the last few months, I have been across the country, twice. The time and kilometres spent at 35000 feet or more could be a divisive thing – a separation from what keeps me going. It can be seen that way, certainly. Being ‘away’ is like that: the removal from home and all that entails, separation from family and friends and familiar things that ground and keep us whole. But the going to provided their own sense of home and community; these just-past travels brought me to new friends, allowed me to re-connect to others I know already, provided the opportunity to go to places I hold dear in my heart and see family that I miss deeply too.

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Like the pull of the tide, this motion has seemed inevitable, and essential.

 

Lines.

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On a map. Highways, dirt side roads, borders, boundaries. Railways. Ways of getting to. And from. And away.

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On my hands and around my eyes, the parts of me most evident and face-first in the making, and moving from one place to another. Squinting into the sun. Looking at the horizon.

 

At what comes next.

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On a shore, marking time and tide and the space between one land and another. Divisions metaphorical too – not to be crossed.

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I made a photocollage to send on: using the original Photograph as the base layer, adding another image I found in the package, and then finally some image stills for a video I shot in the UK last year.

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But, in the end, this seemed inadequate to the task at hand: attempting to capture space and time and motion and the movement of one small package that – in traversing the globe – has connected, and will continue to connect – so many people.

So. In the end, my final offering is this:

 

… travel on … and enjoy the journey, and the stillness within it.

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

‘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.

night train 2

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.

 

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