Notes on personal archives

I find archives very interesting especially the way that we get to engage in either aspects of one life/family unit in depth or the way that we can see a shallow cross section across a broader sample. For example, Stephen Gill’s “Hackney Kisses”, an archive from a wedding photographer of first kisses taken in the 1950s in London. The Chambre Hardman archive is another professional archive, including portraits taken over many years by a studio photographer, including multiple time-separated sittings of the same sitter. Julie Cockburn works with found images and alters them with stitching, giving a surreal touch, almost of 1950s sci fi weirdness to old portraits.

The interesting thing about family archives is that most of us have access to them. I could probably fill multiple albums with images that I’ve been tagged in on social media without having to do so much as take the lid off a biscuit tin. Prints that used to lie dormant in albums are seeing new life by being rephotographed on a phone or scanned and circulated anew. Equally, this ease of photography and cloud based storage brings its own issues – will the images disappear when we do, or will they already be making their own @ and # way around the internet, independent of whoever initially shared the image?

A frequent source of prints for albums is the school photograph. My daughter brought the order form for her photo home yesterday, she wants a 6×4 in a “glitter frame” I am tempted by the “single copy-right free image” download option. I wonder if they really mean “copyright-free”? I shall be taking them at their word, anyway.

I’ve worked with my personal archive since the Foundation course. Reworking my square mile, I superimposed album photographs onto more current images of the town where I grew up.

Then, after acquiring a die-cutting machine on EYV, I worked with rephotographed school photographs of me and photobooth images of my daughter, and worked with embossing, cutting, bringing them into 3 dimensions and combining elements of both of us into a single image.

Talking to my climbing partner I was lucky enough to be allowed to rephotograph some of her family school photographs which I then layered with die-cut map pages and rephotographed. This is someone else’s archive but I can bring person and relevant place together.

At my Uncle David’s funeral nearly two years ago my cousin asked for every one to “go away and do something silly, he’d like that”. Hence my ongoing project of photobooth images with my Uncle David, he is present via his Order of Service. The first one was taken at the photobooth at the station on the way home after the funeral. They are some taken with other cameras too, depending on location. He’s been to London, Greece, Manchester, Sainsbury’s (to help me post my EYV for assessment). The pictures live in a biscuit box.

All of these are ideas that are still ongoing and ripe for further development. I am saving them for either whatever my next L1 course is, or for Digital Image & Culture. Holly Woodward has explored altering the materiality of family archive prints over on her blog for DI &C.


3 thoughts on “Notes on personal archives

  1. sarahdandrews October 2, 2018 / 6:32 am

    Absolutely fascinating Kate. I like the images using the die cut map pages especially.

  2. Catherine October 2, 2018 / 9:45 am

    I like the map images as well – a clever way of bringing together people and place.

  3. Simon Chirgwin October 2, 2018 / 10:49 am

    You could contrast these with your last project – airing your own (metaphorically) dirty linen in public v other people’s (hopefully) laundered linen…

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