Assignment 3. Visual storytelling

Happy Days

A photograph is only a fragment , and with the passage of time its moorings come unstuck. It drifts away into a soft abstract pastness open to any kind of reading (or matching to any other photographs) . ( Sontag , S. 1979 , p.g 71)

This is a continuation of my research into time , ageing and loss , a concept used for the 2nd assignment. I decided once again to use a plain black backdrop and the contents from my case of old family photographs , not only to maintain visual constituency but in the hope these images will eventually form a larger body of work incorporating both my second and final assignment images.

The title of my project came to me whilst rooting through my case of photographs I came across a picture of a young and happy couple , friends of my parent’s , and on the front of the photo someone (who?) had written ‘happy days’ . The title is also a pun , I felt sad as I continued to look through the case because “most subjects are , just by virtue of being photographed , touched with pathos. …a beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings , because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists . All photographs are memento mori . To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s ( or thing’s ) mortality , vulnerability , mutability . Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it , all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt” (Sontag ,S. 1979 ,p.g 15).

Born on the 4th November 1925 my mum will be 90 later this year , she is no longer the independent and agile child or beautiful young woman she once was , and “through photographs we follow in the most intimate , troubling way the reality of how people age ” ( Sontag , S . 1979, p.g 70) . My narrative reconstructs remembered events and moments during her lifetime , mum’s memories personified to become my own. However memory is unreliable , why do some memories remain and are so signifiant they last a lifetime , yet others fade ? How can fleeting and sometimes inconsequential moments define a person or a life?

I searched through my case of family photographs seeking physical proof of past events yet the pictures I finally chose are merely “fragments of stories , never stories in themselves ” (Hirsch,M . 2012 p.g 83) . A printed photograph ” as opposed to film or video ……. reduces time to frozen moments that linger in our memory . We can choose the image that best fits our memories or fantasises at any given moment ” (Novak, L. 2013 p.g 197). Hence my narrative can only be a finite and subjective retrospective of my mothers life .”What I see when I look at my family pictures is not what you see when you look at them:only my look is affiliative , only my look enters and extends the network of looks and gazes that have constructed the image in the first place” ( Hirsch , M. 2012 , p.g 93)

A  (very basic in style) PDF book dummy here as required for the assignment  Happy Days  in printed book form it will be landscape . I intend to order a book but after speaking to my son-in-law may alter the font/text type beforehand + await tutor feedback.

Time

“A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family–and , often , is all that remains ” Susan Sontag (On Photography)

Saucer Eyes

Saucer Eyes

Mum had large blue eyes and the other children would shout ‘get saucer eyes to look for it’ if anything was dropped on the floor or lost at school. She hated being called that.

The Red Beret

The Red Beret

Aged 9 wearing her new red beret mum walked into the local village with friends. The beret was made from wool and when it began to rain red dye ran all down her face. She remembers the other children laughing at her as she ran home.

Wheels

Wheels

Aged 17 mum wanted to be a motorbike dispatch rider in the army. She cried all weekend before her parents would allow her to join. She never did learn to ride a motorbike but was taught to drive lorries instead. Despite the war she says these were amongst the happiest days of her life.

Mum in a Swimsuit

Mum in a Swimsuit

Mum’s knitted swimsuit was highly fashionable in the 1940’s but also incredibly impracticable: it grew larger when wet ! Mum was young and nimble then, but never became a competent swimmer.

Woolcraft

Woolcraft

Mum loved knitting but has not picked up her needles for many years now. Hands , once so industrious , have become arthritic , knotted and old .

Lipstick Kisses

Lipstick Kisses

When they were newly married my parents lived with my paternal grandparents. Mum used to go shopping every day with my nan always meeting friends and neighbours who loved to stand and gossip in the street. Mum always wore bright lipstick in those days and they would chuckle and laugh that my young handsome dad would be covered in kisses when he came home.

The Pipe

The Pipe

I helped my mum clear dad’s things out when he died, she wanted to throw away his pipe. He was never without his pipe , it was a part of who he was. I clearly remember my paternal grandmother telling us about a dream she had when my grandfather died. After his death she threw his pipe away– but he returned in a dream to tell her off. Mum does not remember my nan’s re-told dream but it remains to this day clear in my mind. We kept the pipe .

Self-portrait with Mum

Self-portrait with mum

Here we both are ,older and younger together in one frame, I will always remain my mother’s child . But our respective roles have reversed , I have become the parent she once was as she becomes , with age,more dependant on me.

Last of the Lowerys

Last of the Lowerys

Mum was one of seven children and numerous cousins. She’s the only one left now, the last of the Lowerys.

References /Bibliography
Hirsch , M. (2012) “Family Frames: Photography Narrative and Postmemory” . Harvard University Press , London , England.
Novak , L & Hirsch,M. (2013)  “Family Projections:Lorie Novak in conversation with Marianne Hirsch ,” . In Burbridge , B & Davies , C (eds.) Issue 20  Family Politics , Photoworks Annual . Brighton England , pp. 195-203
Sontag ,S.(1979) “On Photography”  . Penguin Books , London ,England.
List of websites / books used during my research for the assignment
Fox, A and Caruana, N. (2012) Behind the Image: Research in Photography.  Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA
Accessed 18/6/15
Accessed 2/7/15
Accessed 9/7/15
Accessed 20/7/15
Accessed 25/7/15
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8 thoughts on “Assignment 3. Visual storytelling

  1. Stephanie Dh.

    I agree with Catherine, it is really interesting to follow you through this project and collaboration with your mum. It feels indeed as if you have enough material to keep working for a while. There is more than an assignment to do with this…
    I really like how you introduce the set with ‘Saucer Eyes’.
    Best of luck for the critical review now Judy!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Judy Bach Post author

      Thank you Stephanie, I do have a lot of old memorabilia, I just need to decide how best to use it 😊 . I am rather dreading the critical review, I am emailing my tutor later this week as I am not sure yet what I will be researching!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Judy Bach Post author

      Thank you Holly, I would never have been able to do this without my mums patient modelling for me , I don’t think I would ever let my daughters publish pictures of me in a swimming costume !

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. schirgwin

    These are super Judy! On the subject of Happy Days and Mementi Mori, somewhere in the reading I’ve been doing for Context and Narrative, there was a counter thing to Sontag and Barthes (who was more involved in processing the death of his mother than engaging with photographs at the time he wrote CL) about how pictures also could be seen as preserving fragments of time as a perpetual present,where your father always grins out towards camera left and your mother is still perched on the mudguard of her lorry… I’ll update with more detail when I’m back home and can look through my notes…

    Liked by 1 person

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