A collector becomes excessively conscious of a certain kind of object, falls in love with it, then pursues it […] It’s compulsive and you can hardly stop. I think all artists are collectors of images.
Work by students completing MA Photography this year explores recollection of lived experience and image collections transformed through photographic processes. Conscious intention embraces compulsion, chance and the unconscious in more or less explicit ways in this collection of work.
Emma Madsen works with a vast archive of online photographic source material. In the project Cracks and Photographs, in order to collect images, the artist uses a search term denoting a break or fissure in a surface. The word ‘crack’ as a verb describes breaking or splitting apart. It is also to tell a joke, work out a puzzle, breach a defence or solve a mystery. As a noun it is an attempt, a narrow opening, perhaps admitting light into a room, or exposing a hidden depth. Associations of image and language are many. Photographs discovered through the artists’ searches by algorithm and creative intention appear random and peculiar, but on extended viewing, seem to derive from useful origins, to illustrate practical problems, describe appearances and share knowledge. By rearranging these found photographs according to formal criteria, they become mysterious. New aesthetic material is made that complicates authorship, detaches images from their intended uses and opens up numerous possible new meanings.
Samuel Horn’s project Palimpsest comprises photographs taken on different journeys to sites of religious significance. The photographs are situated in relation to each other as a sequence that resists chronology and narrative continuity. A small compact camera that uses film, often with direct flashlight, is used. Often, a substantial amount of time passes between initial photography, the processing of film and realisation of an image. The photographs show altarpieces, alcoves and statuary, caves, corridors and vestibules. Rich in association with ritualised looking and reification, the subjects of these pictures are both inside and outside of the picture. The spaces and objects that feature across the sequence are rendered by the camera as aligned and askew, clearly illuminated and bleached out, sharply focussed and distorted by optical and mechanical blur. The work is therefore deeply ambivalent, a meditation perhaps on seeing as believing, and on the deception of appearances, equally.
Hannah O’Hara’s cyanotypes and landscapes reflect poetically on different natures of human habitation. These pictures are approached and structured in ways other than those concerned with topographic description or the aesthetic conventions of landscape depiction. A powerful sense of longing is conveyed in this work by a mixture of distance and proximity. We are always outside the home as a site of comfort and safety, forever placed impossibly between departure and return. In related moving image works, shadows play across the walls of domestic interiors, discontinuous spoken word and fragments of the outside world appear as if in a dream or recalled from distant memory.
Through creative processes that explicitly acknowledge the effect photographic technologies have upon the construction of photographic meaning, each of these projects in different ways invites reflection upon what is seen, and together, on the significance to photography of the acts of collection and recollection.
Fergus Heron, Course Leader MA Photography
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