Assignment 5. The Boy who Looked like Me

My 2nd and 3rd assignments were explorations of time , memory and loss. Further research into how other artists interpret these concepts has been a great influence and encouraged me to try and emulate their practice but I hope that I am slowly developing my own individual ‘voice’. Continuing with these themes my 5th assignment is about a man born in 1915 , the man I called ‘dad’ and whose early childhood was spent in Marazion ,Cornwall.

He has been dead for many years now , he hardly spoke about his past. As a child I was fascinated by the snapshots and mementoes kept by my parents in the small green case that now belongs to me . His possessions and old photographs are signifiers of his existence although he is no longer here.Yet the photographs of my dad as a young man conceal as much as they reveal.

I have incorporated dad’s once personal images to tell a story , yet the original photographs were never taken with that intention in mind.I have come to realise this assignment is a much about me as him , what I remember and how I choose to interpret it , my memories not his. Is it possible to ever know the truth about another persons life? I have tried to form an impression of him as a man but this is undoubtably biased by what I was told and remember , and also because of how I felt and still feel about him. I can only imagine and make up stories through my photography in an attempt to relate a brief and subjective retrospective narrative of his life.

Snapshots are becoming obsolete , memories kept on hard-drives , shared via social media and very rarely printed , imperfect images and mistakes easily erased. Hence ‘the advent of digital technologies means that this kind of photography has now taken on an extra memorial role’ which ‘suffuses snapshots with the aesthetic appeal of a seductive melancholy , whatever their actual age or the particularities of their subject matter’ (Batchen ,p.g 130) . As well as their status as an aide mémoire snapshots are also documents , they record private and communal histories. Personal and family photographs are amongst our most treasured possessions , ‘often said to be the thing we would rescue from a burning building’ ( Batchen ,p.g 136 ) .

‘There is a story told about the war criminal Ratko Mladić , who spent months shelling Sarajevo from the surrounding hills . Once he noticed an acquaintance’s house in the next target . The general telephoned his acquaintance and informed him he was giving him five minutes to collect his ‘albums’ , because he had decided to blow the house up. When he said ‘albums’ , the murderer meant the albums of family photographs. The general , who who had been destroying the city for months , knew precisely how to annihilate memory. That is why he ‘generously’ bestowed on his acquaintance life with the right to remembrance. Bare life and a few family photographs’
Dubravka Ugrešić
            The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (p.g 5)

My double exposures are intended to suggest both the transient life of the snapshot album and how easily these tangible memories of my dad could disappear. I have included a few original photographs that have been scanned and printed as well as newspaper clippings in addition to the 15 images needed for the assignment. I hope my work helps in someway to immortalise him for the future generations of my family when I am no longer here to keep his memory alive.

References / Bibliography
 
Barthes , R (2000) Camera Lucida . London: Vintage
Geoffrey Batchen (2008) SNAPSHOTS, Photographies, 1:2, 121-142, DOI: 10.1080/17540760802284398
Berger, J. (2013) Understanding a photograph. Edited by Geoff Dyer. London: Penguin Classics.
Mark Godfrey. Photography Found and Lost :On Tacita Dean’s Floh , October , no. 114 , Fall 2005 , pp.90-119
Holland, P. (2000) Family snaps: The meanings of domestic photography. Edited by Jo Spence and Patricia Holland. London: Virago Press.
Timothy O’Grady (2006) Memory, Photography, Ireland, Irish Studies Review, 14:2, 255-262, DOI: 10.1080/09670880600603729
Rainbird, S. (2005) Tacita dean: Berlin works: [published to accompany the exhibition Tacita dean: Berlin works, 8 October 2005 – 15 January 2006, Tate, st. Ives]. United Kingdom: Tate Gallery Publish.
Semin, D., Garb, T., Kuspit, D. and Boltanski, C. (1997) Christian Boltanski. London: Phaidon Press.
Sontag ,S.(1979) “On Photography”  . Penguin Books , London ,England.
Ugrešić, D. (2007) The museum of unconditional surrender. United States: New Directions Publishing.
Translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth
Websites
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10 thoughts on “Assignment 5. The Boy who Looked like Me

  1. schirgwin

    It’s really good. I can totally identify with the way mysteries wrap themselves round the pictures we have of our dead parents as soon as they are no longer there to explain the things you never thought to ask
    . Did you know one of his front teeth was (presumably) a crown, by the way?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Judy Bach Post author

      Thanks Simon 🙂
      I’ve asked mum about his tooth today , apparently he lost it during the war. When he met mum in1945 he had one false tooth on a small plate !

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  2. Judy Bach Post author

    Thank you Catherine , it has been a very personal project . I also plan to do a book for assessment , something small that can be kept easily with my old photographs 🙂

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  3. selinawallace

    Fascinating to see your variety of approaches in this assignment. I hope you’ll discuss some of your book design thought processes when you get that far. This is so much along the theme of my current work! I really enjoyed looking and reading the personal stories. Selina

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Judy Bach Post author

      Thank you so much Selina . I don’t have much experience in book design so am keeping them all quite simple for assessment along with A3 prints 😊 .

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