Assignment Two

Precious Memories

Time changes everything and because of that , it is important to make photographs , because photographs , among their other virtues are markers of time” (Nakadate ,p.g 239) .

This assignment has evolved into a subjective exploration of the inseparable link that exists between time and memory . Using family photographs , treasured possessions , self-portraiture , and family members I have tried to explore my inner thoughts and feelings , on time , growing old, and loss. My research led me to two female photographers , Priya Kambli and Annu Palakunnathu Matthew , who have both inspired me immensely. Priya Kambli’s evocative Suitcase series led to my own attempts at still-life photography . Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s inspirational Regeneration series investigated ” the presumed veracity of photographs to spur a critical reflection on the power of photography and it’s effect on the perception of memory” (Annu Palakunnathu Matthew ) encouraging me to try something similar .I am lucky that I have a reasonable collection of old family photographs, my husband sadly possesses just one from his very early boyhood.

I read , and re-read , Barthes Camera Lucida , of his emotional response to his Mother’s death, which on the third reading moved me to tears. Barthes discusses how a “ photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer , but only and for certain what has been” ( Barthes , p.g 85) . Despite the invention of photography making possible “one of man’s most ancient dreams , to halt the passage of time” (Black , 2010) time does pass , nothing lasts forever . I grow older , my family and friends grow older , eventually we will all , over time , become memories , it’s how we continue to exist. The visual and conceptual techniques used in surrealist photography make it an ideal way to represent the unseen and one I have used in my assignment.

After comparing the majority of my assignment images as prints in both mono and colour I felt that the B&W versions had greater visual impact and a coherence that seemed lacking in colour.
I chose to use the same plain black background for all images to create unity throughout because although these images do not form a story they do have a common theme.

The Time Machine
Old images reignite memories and , like a time machine , take us back to a different time” (Annu Palakunnathu Matthew) .The old leather case contains my mum and dad’s photographs a few letters , and other bits of personal memorabilia. Originally a whiskey casket (full of bottles of whiskey) it was given to my aunt Alice ( one of mum’s sisters ) whilst she was in service to a wealthy Northern mining family prior to the outbreak of WW2. I love looking through its contents and am immediately transported back to a time and place long gone , I see long dead family , lost youth and beauty . So much pathos in a small leather case.

One More Time
An anomaly : my dad , aged about 15 , now long dead , “ is going to die: I shudder ……over a catastrophe which has already occurred ” (Barthes , p.g 96 ) . He died 35 years ago but I failed to ask him about his life, his hopes and dreams, I left it too late. I never told him I loved him , he was (like me) undemonstrative but I knew I was loved , I hope he knew he was too . “ From a real body, which was there , proceed radiations which ultimately touch me , who am here ” (Barthes , p.g 80 ) , I wish I could reach back into the past , touch him , speak to him one more time.

Best Wife in the World
My handsome dad writes a declaration to his new wife across a photograph but its sadness ” exists only for me . For you , it would be nothing but an indifferent picture , one of the thousand manifestations of the ordinary; ……….. at most it would interest your studium; period, clothes , photogeny ; but in it , for you , no wound “ ( Barthes , p.g 73) . My mum has been his widow now for longer than they were married , his words a reminder of all she has lost , what time has taken.

My Mothers Hands
Beautiful in a unique way , my mum’s hands reveal the passage of time and old age , a time of quiet contemplation and remembering.

Testimony of Time
Who am I –daughter , mother or grandmother ? I am all three.Time alters relationships , from cared for to care provider. Time changes the outside shell leaving indelible marks , like a tattoo . These cannot be removed and are always on view to remind us of who we once were , who we have become.

The One and Only
My husband holds a photograph of himself aged about two. He has no memory of this being taken but remembers it hung in his mum and dad’s living room for a few years before being relegated to a box– out of sight and out of mind. Many years later following first the death of his dad , then later his mum , it finally came to join our collection, past and present finally reconciled.

Two Hundred and Six
Our combined ages , four generations of my family , the passage of time visible in our individual faces , the changing textures of our skin.

My Son’s Shirt
This silk shirt was bought back from Hong Kong by my Mum and Dad for my three year old son , he’s nearing forty now, when did my son become a man? Dad died a week after returning from Hong Kong and never saw his grandson in the shirt so carefully chosen for him. I have never been able to part with it , the only item of clothing I have ever kept from my son’s childhood.

References / Bibliography

Barthes , R (1993) Camera Lucida . London: Vintage

Black , C ,ed . (2010) Ghosts of the Black Chamber . Chicago USA:University of Chicago Press

Burnstine , S. (2015) American Connection Black + White Photography (Issue 174) 22-23

Fox , A. and Caruana , N . (2012) Creative Photography: Behind the Image, Research in Photography. Lausanne:Ava Publishing

Kambli , P. Priya Kambli Accessed 6/4/2015

Matthew, A. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew Accessed 2/2/2015

Nakadate , L. (2014) Time Capsule. In: Fulford, J and Halpern ,G , eds. The Photographers Playbook.New York :Aperture pp.239-241.

Short , M. (2011) Creative Photography:Context and Narrative. Lausanne : Ava Publishing.


7 thoughts on “Assignment Two

  1. Stephanie Dh.

    It’s been wonderful to follow you going through the research and experimentation for this project. I find the final set very rich and interesting, I like particularly the fact that each image in the set is unique while in total harmony with the other.


  2. Catherine

    I have also gained much from following you on this Assignment Judy. The images are so poignant and, as Stephanie writes, each has their individual identity whilst being part of a whole (like a family I think). Your choice of the quotations from Barthes is so apt.


  3. schirgwin

    I’ve also been reading Barthes, and looking through a box of photos of (mostly my father’s) family. I hope someday I’ll be able to turn these linked experiences into something as fine as this…


  4. Pingback: Research / Ideas for Assignment 5 | Judy Bach: Open College of the Arts Documentary Blog

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