Whitney Biennial: Curtis Mann Making “After The Dust, Second View (Beirut)”
The use of bleach
I want to explore the how I could show the dissolving culture of Anglo Indians. Whitney Biennial uses bleach on photographs to show….
I want to try using bleach to physically explore and investigate the loss or dissolving culture of my ancestry. As Anglo Indians have emigrated they have adopted the culture of their new home. I feel that as I look further back into the history of Anglo Indians that the culture is stronger the further you travel back in time. I want to physically explore this using bleach on old photographs, actually dissolving the past from in front of me.
I feel this has made me reflect on how stories change over time. Memories alter and what really happened may be lost or changed. Much like I am seeing with the bleach on the photographs, I am changing them and manipulating what people see.
Reflection on Task:
I am extremely proud of how these experiments have turned out. I feel the dream like effect that the bleach has created is pleasing to the eye. These were originally digital copied of analogue black and white or tinted photographs, reproduced and printed. These Photographs were printed on glossy photo paper on a Canon iP3600 printer. I realise that different photo papers and different printers with different inks, will have different effects when put into contact with bleach. At the moment I particularly like the effect on these images, however, I do plan to experiment further with this to see what other effects I could achieve. I feel this invites the viewer to imagine how memories alter over time, by showing them a physical manipulation I have produced by using bleach on photographs, they can see how memories are lost or distorted in time.
“An Artist Who Finds and Publishes Other People’s Photos”
“For more than 30 years now he has been hunting for ordinary discarded photographs that catch his eye. Once discovered, these found images — many of which were destined for landfills — are compiled into collections that give them new purpose and meaning.”
I want to experiment with comparing Anglo Indian family photographs. The physical and visual style of this technique will allow me to investigate similarities and differences between different families photographs and experiences. Perhaps I could compare their faces and explore the visual similarities in facial feature. Or perhaps I could compare the houses that they lived in, and the type of photographs they took. By creating a montage of two images I can visually and aesthetically compare their parallels.
Reflection on task:
When I started comparing the photographs using photomontage, I realized quickly that photographs that were taken at an angle rather than straight on, were harder to achieve a successful comparative montage, as the face could not be split down the middle. You can see here an example of an angled face photomontage, however, I prefer the straight on photomontages that I created. I wanted to show this photomontage to show that I have been learning from work that hasn’t necessarily gone to plan, and developing my understanding of different techniques. In future I shall use photographs that are straight on, so that the visual comparison is shown clearly.
At first I used people faces to create photomontages from, comparing facial features of different Anglo Indian families. I wanted to explore Anglo Indian family photographs to see if there were similar qualities that could be found in differing families. I found that my Grandad’s (Dudley Traish) seemed to match quite remarkably to another young mans portrait, also taken around the 40’s, this photograph was archived from Andrew Hoffland’s family albums. This was thought provoking and peculiar to see. When you see two photographs you don’t necessarily notice how similar they really are, until you slice them down the middle and place them together in one framing. It is intriguing to see the similarities and how the different family faces fit together.
After I had explored the similarities within Anglo Indian faces, I decided to investigate the similarities within their photography and lives. I compared my Grandad’s Uncle’s house in India against the house that the Heppolette family used to live in in India. Although one is an old analogue photograph from the 40’s and one is a digital photograph taken recently, I have been told that the Heppolette family house had not changed from what they remembered in the 40’s. Looking at the similarities, I found it curious how well these two houses seemed to link together so well. The garden seems to be an important feature in both images, appearing in the foreground of both photographs of the houses.
I also compared the types of photographs or memories that appeared in family albums. In my Grandad’s album there was a postcard of the boat that he travelled on to come back to India after his time with the RAF. I found it intriguing to see that a boat featured in the Heppolette family album as well. This was the boat that brought them to England when they moved out of India as India claimed its independence.
I wanted to compare these images and visually show the types of imagery that features in an Anglo Indian family album. Looking back at the photomontages I have created, I feel that the photographs have a strong sense of connection between them. I feel that by exploring the photographs and comparing their aesthetics, I have investigated some of the parallels that run between Anglo Indian families.
I want to look into family albums of my own family or of other families. I am hoping to get in touch with my Anglo Indian relatives or other Anglo Indian families. I would like to discuss if these people have had similar experiences. I wish to meet a few of these people, and audio-record our conversation. I am considering audio and video. I find it fascinating that some of the missing photographs from my Granddads album actually create a story of it own. I am interested to see if there are any missing photographs from other albums and if these missing images tell a story of there own. Have these images been lost of removed? At the moment I am exploring the ideas behind missing photographs and stories.
Emma Critchley’s response and feedback:
I was told that the missing photographs of women in my grandad’s album were fascinating. She also said that I could take this in so many different ways. It’s something that is about absence and presents. Perhaps I could get in touch with distant relatives. There are two things you want to look at: my grandad’s story and then there’s the wider story. Both these stories will naturally talk to each other.
I was advised to look at Helen Cammock, she did a talk at the Tate recently that might be of interest. Having researched into Cammock I found her very interesting. Her dad is from Caribbean background and her mum is White British, so she is first generation from that mix of cultures. She talks about the wider picture of politics and race through her own personal experience.
It was suggested that I was heading in the right direction, as I mentioned in my overview, just filming someone going through their album will give me a lot of material to start working with. It will then be about how I approach that and how the audience then relates to that. It was told that my project was really fascinating. At the moment you just want to gather a lot of information. Whilst I am doing this I must be aware and make sure I am being self-observant of the interesting stories. Is it about just this individual or will the stories inter relate.? Whether or not I choose to reveal the stories to the audience, in its self will be interesting. Or will I just want to give the stories but no images. I was told that it what is at play here is the lack of stories through people not being here anymore and some of the images having been lost. Its what I choose to give the audience visually and sonically: who is speaking or telling their story? All of these things will be very important to the project.
Tate.org.uk, (2015) available from <http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/45967> [30 March 2015]
Emma Critchley started working under water during her BA (Brighton Uni).
The experience of working in that space that interests her, everything changes underwater. Thinking about it as a different space to be in, everything changes, light, sound, movement and touch. It shifts our world and how we experience things.
“Freediver Portraits” 2012
Started working with free divers as she became very interested in the breath. People can usually stay underwater for very long. However, the free divers she started working with could hold their breath for around 5 minutes.
She is interested in photography’s ability to stop and take a moment, a breath hold. To hold an extended breath hold you have to be in a state of complete calm.
She then started working with moving image for her project “Single Shared Breath”. We all share our breath with everything around us. Peter Russel wrote a book about the exchange of breath in the world.
“Casper” by David Frederich
Looked into the romantics a lot. She is exploring the idea of us relating to the world around us, the human figure in the landscape.
An artist that Critchley is particularly interested in is Anselm Kiefer. His painting “Sternenfall (Falling Stars)” (1995) depicts a man laying beneath the stars. This inspired a project called “Reflection”. Looking up at the world above. It appears that he is looking at his own reflection. We are able to see both him and his reflection as the audience. However, when they actually were shooting you could not see the reflection. The reflection symbolizes the inner calm that the free diver has to be able to hold his breath.
It is very important in her work that the figure is life size. She believes that we wouldn’t relate to the figure in the same way otherwise.
Critchley then goes on to experiment with free divers heartbeats. One of her free divers heart rate slows from 3 beats a second to just one. Critchley then developed this into a sound and light installation. Allowing the viewer to experience the heart rate as a visual experience.
Her project “Figures of Speech” thinks of language and speech as being a very temporal thing. Being under water you have to come up with different ways of communicating. The words have lost their initial meaning, as they were said underwater and the speech bubble shapes have been photographed. We still try and find meaning in things, in the shapes photographed, even though we don’t know the original words.
Critchley then develops this idea, of time before language. She feels her work reflects a time before speech. We cannot depend upon language underwater; our communication through speech is lost.
She then developed a project about the synchronization of breath. She worked with a soprano singer and the free diver, to show their synchronization of breaths. The moving image shows the free diver moving in the water whilst the vocalist is singing, and then when the vocalist takes a breath so does the free diver.
Critchley’s work has made me think about the combination of sound and image. The relationship of sound and the image can create an amazing sensual piece. The sounds add to the images, making the audience pay more attention to details. The sounds make the viewer pause on the work for longer, as the sounds draw their attention to parts of the piece they wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
An artist I mentioned in my reflection of my “Image and Text” task was Sara Davidmann. She introduced herself to photography in the late 90’s. When she met Milly, a transgender, she started her famous work with the Trans community. Davidmann is exploring giving control to the trans community that she is photographing. She believes it’s the collaborative component that is crucial, particularly in the trans population it is incredibly vital that the contributor has jurisdiction over what is identified about them. This could affect their lives.
Davidmann was learning about photography, and working with transgender community for the first time in her project, “Crossing the line”. She has now been collaborating with the trans community for over 14 years. Her work has progressed and discovered many different sides of photographing trans.
Another project, “Ken, to be destroyed” concerns her family albums. The title arose from an envelope her mother had written on, “Ken, to be destroyed”. The knowledge that her Uncle was trans was kept secret for many years, however, her mother told her eventually because of her work. Davidmann made use of old photographs of her Aunt and Uncle; re-photographing the photographs and letters. This work shaped a discussion with the family photography album. It was undisclosed within the family that he was trans. Her project re-establishes K as Trans.
This project made me reconsider how intimate family stories are told within family photo albums. There are often missing sections of life, as we only want memories of cheerful occasions. We generally don’t take photographs of the fights and struggles of life. Not only is this a personal conversation with her family album; it has larger implications on family photo albums overall. This is particularly thought provoking for me as I am exploring Anglo Indian family albums. The manner that she investigated the past of her family that had never been told previously was captivating. In conversation with her mother, and by looking through old letters and records she restored her family stories.
As I progress with my project I shall have to consider what stories are not told. For me I feel the whole story behind my Anglo Indian ancestry was not told to me, I am rediscovering my past for myself. My Grandad was proud to say he was born in India, however, never referred to himself as Anglo Indian. I was always told that he was of Italian decent. I find that Sara Davidmann’s project shares similarities with mine; in the way that family stories were hidden and are now being rediscovered.