Exercise 1.4 – Archival intervention

For this exercise I chose to explore the collection of family photographs kept by my mother.  The collection is held within various family albums and framed images on display.  As such it is the first time they have been brought together in a cohesive way.

My intention was to create a short chronotype using photographs of my late father.  Inspired by how the Hardman collection highlighted the visual changes seen in the same individual over time, I hoped this would provide insights into the life of my late father that were not immediately apparent from seeing the various images in disparate form.

The photographs were carefully selected to provide a broad spread of my father’s entire life.  He died at the age of 51 and so there are approximately a decade between each image, spanning from him being a young boy, through his teenage years, marriage and into middle age.  The attempt here is to show the key milestones in his life, although naturally old age is missing from the set due to his early death.

Despite the variance in age, location and circumstances, each photograph is clearly linked by my rather wearing the very same smile in each.  Before bringing the set together in this way, this observation that his smile endured unchanged throughout his life might easily have been missed.

I considered the progression from black and white to colour, and whether it would be better to change the latter ones to also be black and white so they all match.  For this particular exercise I decided it was better to keep the photographs to the original, since other aesthetics such as the quality of original camera would never make the individual images look exactly the same anyway.  Some of them carry fond memories for me in this respect, with the penultimate image being taken by me using my first ever camera, a Kodak Instamatic (with rotating flash cubes!).  I note that the last image has faded due to being in a frame in direct sunlight so that my mother can view it every day, a poignant metaphor for the subject matter perhaps.

Shortly after the last image was taken my father became ill and died within a space of three months.  On a personal level, I was struck by how it was possible to see the change in my father between this and the previous images, looking older than his 50 years in the final one.  It is as though the illness was quietly taking its toll already.  Again, this progression might easily have been missed without the broader context of the other photographs.

So far, the chronotype has been reviewed within the context of personal experience, relationships and memory.  In the case of BE. J. Bellocq, his work was not discovered until after his death and the subsequent discovery by Larry Borenstein.  Similarly, very few people saw the contents of the Hardman collection until Liverpool library purchased it in 1976.  How might my chronotype by viewed by an outsider without the external context I possess?

Of course it is difficult to be objective and detached from photographs that carry personal connotations, but there would seem to be two key themes that link the set together.  The first is the aforementioned smile.  I believe this is enough for another viewer to recognise that this is the same individual in each image, thus enabling them to identify with the purpose and main subject of the set.  Secondly, there is a hint of there being a social occation in each one.  Some are more obvious, such as a wedding.  But in the early photograph my father was clearly dressed in his sunday best, complete with bow tie.  Later, he is seen raising a glass in the sun with friends.  The later shot shows him surrounded by empty glasses on the table.  Clearly there is a social occasion going on on but now we can’t see the people he is sharing it with.  The empty glasses denote the celebration time is running out, perhaps.  In the last image my father is seen out walking with a group of friends and my mother.  In order to fit the photograph in the available frame, my mother has cut the other people off (we can just see another foot in the bottom left corner).  Sadly, within a year of this photograph being taken, my father was detached from his rambling society in a more literal sense.

Since this exercise overlapped with my preparation for Assignment 5 of my previous OCA course Context and Narrative, I also chose to incorporate the chronotype for this Exercise within that:


(781 words)

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