Personal project : Images & text #4

Abandoned and left to be ‘rescued’ , perhaps years after anyone in the image is still alive , what I love about abandoned photographs is their mystery; they reveal and conceal at the same time. Clothing may suggest a possible era whilst written information on the back or front may provide some context.

This photographic postcard is another junk shop find and a particular favourite of mine. I think it might possibly be from the 1930’s , any thoughts on this would be most welcome.

Embossed across the bottom of the front is Kent Messenger , Maidstone

Written on the back the original owner (I presume) states :

” My Pupils after Display” and a signature ; H Bates.

and the more difficult to interpret declaration

” This is mine I’m hidden at the back . Some good lookers there ”

As the new owner of the photograph I’ll never know if this was meant sarcastically or was it a compliment perhaps ? I found myself scrutinising all those young faces trying to identify the ‘good-lookers’ !

To be continued ……..

Assignment / coursework delay 

My assignment was due to be finished last week but unfortunately I have been finding it very hard to focus on my OCA work owing to my hubby’s health –he has a chronic condition that has suddenly deteriorated rather rapidly over the past 5 weeks so consequently we are attending a lot of hospital appointments .

I was determined to complete the assignment but after spending days of non-productivity I emailed my tutor , who very kindly rang me to discuss the situation. I do not want to stop my studies and still plan to finish the course by next April but I now have until mid September to complete this assignment & will make a start on the 4th one too. We had a long conversation and he suggested I take a break and perhaps try experimenting or simply photographing for pleasure (something I seem to do less of than I would like) .

So—-I have had a DIY pinhole camera delivered today , only a cheap one , but am going to enjoy trying that out + I have ordered a sunprint kit to try –I just hope the sun returns later this week ! If I have any success I will write a post about how I get on. I have also made my first ever purchase on ebay tonight –a single CDV Cabinet card to add to my small but growing ‘found’ photography collection. My  personal project –Images & Text — is ongoing

My blog posts might be a bit spasmodic as I am not too sure what will be happening over the next couple of months but I hope I can keep up a reasonably steady pace as I want to catch up with the remainder of section 3 of the coursework & begin to plan my initial ideas for the 4th assignment.

Research / working towards assignment 3

  • Despite the prevalence for sharing imagery online rather than as physical prints ‘many families still find pride of place on mantleplaces for framed pictures of beloved family members’ (McLaren,S. p.p 141)
  • Operation Photo Rescue (OPC)
    Following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005 OPC was established , a voluntary organisation that restores personal photographs destroyed by natural disasters. The volunteers use digital techniques to restore damaged but treasured images , which ‘following family and pets , photos are the next most cherished possession , as the memories captured in photos are all that remain after a natural disaster’ (Howarth, S. p.p 13)
  • Salvage Memory
    Over three quarters of a million photographs were restored and digitised by Japanese artist Munemasa Takahasi and a team of volunteers in the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake. The project began with the intention of reuniting them with the original owners (400,00 have been returned) but those deemed too damaged were put into a ‘hopeless’ container.
  • The Lost and Found project was initiated ‘to use these photos, which were destined to be thrown away , to reach out to the people living far-away places to show these photos , tell our stories , and ask for donations. These pictures offer visceral feel for the presence of the people and their lives in the photos ,something that the press reports , videos and casualty figures cannot communicate. These photos also show compassion with which they were handled by so many people who retrieved and washed them‘ (Takahasi ,M .2012)
    The project can be viewed online , and has been presented as a book and exhibition.

References / Bibliography

Research / notes / working towards Assignment 3

Family photography in the Post Photographic era

+ See scanned  notes

‘The here-and-now concern’s of humanity’s forced wanderings are a salutary reminder that photography’s new global and instantaneous reach is a powerful force for human connection and kindred resilience , and that the sharing of digital photography can be as adept at where we have travelled from as at establishing where we might be going’
(McLaren ,S. p.p 137)

John Clang Being Together

Many families now live far apart , frequently in different countries , a group family snap of the sort found in analogue albums is effectively impossible. Born in Singapore New York based John Clang’s project Being Together began as a way of creating a ‘very basic family portrait……to show the technological aspect of the time we are living in’ (1) continuing the Asian tradition of recording formal family gatherings.

The images are not composites but made as the virtual get together occurs, just how a family would have gathered together for a traditional photograph . Using digital technology Clang initially attempted this with using his own family members but extended the venture to include other families in Singapore and their far off relatives.

Using a webcam and Skype to connect distant relatives the Skype images are projected onto a wall enabling Clang to take his photograph of the virtually reunited family.

Mimi Mollica Nora There
Funnily enough my project Nora There turned out to be less about Nora and more about the “strangers” I photographed with there , that’s why this series differs from the tradition of family photography, where I’d guess photographing the relatives is rather the focus” (2)

Mollica’s project ( was shot exclusively using a smartphone camera and shared via social media on Instagram.

New ways of working with archives and family photographs

Because of its instant worldwide reach photography is an influential medium to provide ‘human connection and kindred resilience’ (McLaren , S. p.p 137) .

Taylor Jones Dear Photograph

Taylor Jones is founder of the Dear Photograph website ( ) where past and present are presented in a single frame. Archival images are re-photogrpahed years later in the same location , whilst some of the contributions are humorous a central theme is of loss and remorse , common human emotions. The site initially only contained Jone’s images but grew rapidly to include contributions from those eager to commemorate their own personal histories. Jones believes the printed photograph is incomparable and is worried there is a danger of losing the physical connection to the past that a print, unlike a digital image viewed on a screen , provides.

However without digital technology diverse narratives could not be shared ‘and clearly the meme of juxtaposing and contrasting analogue photographs with those taken in contemporary times and then sharing them online is a device that photographers will return to again and again’ (McLaren ,S .p.p 138)

Louis Quail Before They Were Fallen

Louis Quail is a documentary photographer.

His before and after series of images of UK families who lost family members in the Afghan war are very emotionally charged (

‘The central concept of the work is the recreation of the family snap’ (3)

The project addresses the themes of loss , memory and commemoration.

Viewing the former images , taken in more carefree times , alongside their contemporary version forces the viewer to contemplate the pronounced blank space. I found the sets of images extremely poignant , captions accompany each set adding context.

Interviews with the bereaved families can be read by clicking on a link and a video also accompanies the project. Truly touching work.

References / Bibliography
1.Clang, J. 30/12/2013 Being Together (online). Invisible Photographer Asia
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Howarth , S and McLaren , S. (2016). Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.
McLaren , S (2016) “Thanks for Sharing” in Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.
2.Mollica ,M . Nora There (online) Mimi Mollica Photographer
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3 .Quail , L. Before They Were Fallen
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Nora There Instagram pic
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Reading / notes / working towards assignment 3

José van Dijck
Digital Photography : Communication , Identity , Memory

The principle use of vernacular snapshot photography prior to the digital age was as a means to aid recall and preserve memory .

Despite photography’s traditional connection during the 19th and 20th century with remembrance it has additionally always been used as a device for communication and sharing events.

Rather than existing as a physical print , kept in a box or album for private viewing and as a device for remembering , many personal images are now globally shared.

Manipulation and distortion of memory is neither new or unique to digital imagery however digital technologies enable a far greater proportion of people to alter pictures with relative ease.

Despite how digital imagery is disseminated José van Dijck contends ‘that photography’s function as a memory tool is still equally vibrant , even if its manifestation is changing in the digital era’ (p.g 59)

Change in how we use photography:

Camera frequently used as a device for communicating daily experiences not just special occasions.
Whilst older generations use ‘the primacy of photography as a memory tool , particularly in the construction of family life, …teenagers and young adults use camera-like tools for conversation and peer-group building’ (p.p 61)

Camera-phone ‘permits entirely new performative rituals’ (p.p 62)
Live streaming
Instant communication–email / social media
Photo blogs used to keep in touch / albums not kept
Intangible and ephemeral ‘camera-phone pictures are meant to be thrown after they are received ‘ (p.p 62)
The importance of a photograph becomes momentary rather than taken as a keepsake.
The images are occasionally accompanied by a brief note ‘pixeled images , like spoken words , circulate between individuals and groups to establish and reconfirm bonds’ (p.p 62)

José van Dijck suggests our changing relationship with photography does not originate from digitalisation but ‘is part of a broader cultural transformation that involves individualisation and intensification of experience’ (p.p 63)

‘ the individual has gradually become the nucleus of pictorial life’ (p.p 61)

‘self-presentation –rather than family re-presentation –is now a major function of photographs’ (p.p 61)

‘Digital photo cameras have been touted as novel instruments of identity formation , particularly as they allow users to manipulate their own images’ (p.p 63).
But photography has always been used as a tool to shape identity.

Has manipulation become a fundamental component of digital photography ?

Can check image immediately after taking on display
Can be instantly deleted
Subject/s can view & assess their appearance , this may determine their subsequent pose
Images viewed and stored on a computer
Images manipulated by software
Although manipulation is not unique to digital photography what is unparalleled ‘is the increased number of possibilities to review and retouch one’s own pictures’ (p.p 67)
Old family photographs easily restored /altered — ameliorate identity and appearance .

‘Software packages supporting the processing of personal photographs often bespeak the digital image’s status as a liminal object; pixeled photographs are touted as bricks of memory construction , as software is architecturally designed with future remodelling in mind’ (p.p 68)

Memory & digital photography

Digital photography is frequently used as a device to disseminate daily events and shape identity ,
hence its perceived function as an aide-mémoire seems increasingly tenuous in the ‘post photographic era’ as images are more commonly shared via social media sites and emailed to relatives and friends.

Yet José van Dijck suggests ‘we can hardly conclude these newly foregrounded functions to annihilate photography’s commemorative function’ (p.p 69)

The post-photographic era offers a different way of commemorating:

e.g Abu Gharib —see notes project 2

‘Snapshots’ taken by soldiers not journalists to be shared amongst colleagues and family at home.

The sickening Abu Ghraib images ‘connote the function of these pictures as symbolic resources for communication. The last thing thing these pictures were meant to be by their makers, were objects of lasting memory ‘ (p.p 71) . Yet precisely the opposite occurred when the incriminating images , intended to be discarded once seen by their recipients , paradoxically entered the public domain.

‘The awareness that any picture unleashed on the internet can be endlessly recycled may lead to a new attitude in taking pictures:anticipating future reuse , photographs are no longer innocent personal keepsakes , but they are potential liabilities in someone’s personal life or professional career’ ( p.p 71 )

The veracity of a photograph as a factual token of memory has always been unreliable but ‘since the emergence of digital technology, pictorial manipulation seems to be a default mode rather than an option’ (p.p 71)

Can digitally modify and alter identity with relative ease ; photographs portray who we desire to be and how we are recalled.

van Dijck suggests digital photography is not exclusively the reason why people do this:

It ‘derives its revamped application as a memory tool from a culture where manipulability and morphing are commonly accepted conditions for shaping personhood. Flexibility and morphing do no apply exclusively to pictures as shaping tools for memory , but also more generally to bodies and things. Memory , like photographs and bodies , can now be made picture perfect;memory and photography change in conjunction , adapting to contemporary expectations and prevailing norms’ (p.p 72)

She further proposes this process of altering identity could be a lasting task as the past is constantly altered and re-invented. ‘Even if still a memory took , the digital camera is now pushed as an instrument for identity construction , allowing more shaping power over autobiographical memories’ (p.p 72)

Private pictures globally shared.

‘Personal photographs are increasingly pulled out of the shoebox to be used as public signifiers’ (p.p 72)

Archived images are digitally enhanced and publicly shared to be used in present day contexts .

The downside of undetectable manipulation is how personal images might be used in the future and the function of a once private images globally shared . ‘The picture taken ….as a token of instant and ephemeral communication may live an extended life on the internet , turning up in unexpected contexts many years from now’ (p.g 60) .

Context and memory susceptible to modification ‘but since the framing of a picture is never fixed for once and all , each re-materialisation coms with its own illocutionary meaning attached , and each reframing may render the ‘original ‘ purpose unrecognisable. So even if taken with a communicative use in mind , a picture may end up as a persistent object of (collective) cultural memory–evidenced by the Abu Ghraib pictures’ (p.p 73)

How we share in the public domain or via email private images has consequences for their future use , over which the individual may have little control.


van Dijck , J. (2008) . “Digital photography:communication , identity , memory” . Visual Communication , 7(1) 57-76

Tattoo : British Tattoo Art Revealed . Exhibition @ Falmouth Maritime Museum

Although not specifically photography related I wanted to do a very brief write up about the tattoo exhibition I visited whilst in Cornwall as I enjoyed it so much. It contains an eclectic range of art work and material not routinely found on public display. (Photos taken using my iPhone)

The exhibition features collections and art work tracing the history of British tattooing as well as some fantastic portraiture photography . I will admit to having a single tattoo done well over 20 years ago but it remains hidden away from public view ! Both my daughters (but not my son) and son-in-laws have numerous tattoos , as have many of the younger female members of staff whom I work with and whose tattoos cover large areas of their body . My personal opinion of tattoos has certainly been challenged and although I am not a huge fan of extensive body tattoos I must admit as art work and a form of self-expression they have to be admired , an aspect the exhibition celebrates.

Tattoos… are living and three dimensional forms of art……….there is absolutely no denying tattoos are art ” Alice Snape

The 100 Hands Project curated by Alice Snape is a quirky three dimensional display featuring silicone arms tattooed by 100 different UK tattoo artists . Each has been designed specifically for the exhibition and the intricate unique designs of each tattooed ‘arm’ are fascinating to view close up. Snape comments that not all tattoos deserve to be displayed in a museum and as an art form they “simply aren’t objects that can be put in a frame of housed in a cabinet. They are on the skin of living , breathing people , which means they ordinarily disappear from existence one the wearer’s life is over “ ( Snape, A. p.p 25) .

Preserved tattooed human skin is on display , during the C19th drawings and photographs of tattoos were collected in an attempt to classify and diagnose deviancy and criminality in society. The tattoos are evidence of “the lost loves , battles fought and lives lived of countless unknown men. Their often-eaborate skin-markings may be viewed as a kind of historical document , the writings of those who seldom left behind autobiographies -ordinary working men , sailors , soldiers , circus perfumers , criminals” (Angel , G. p.p 21 )

Hyperrealist body sculptures
Especially commissioned for the exhibition tattoos on silicone body casts

Photography display

One element of the exhibition that I really loved was the photography by Rosie Kliskey see and the large scale portraiture prints on display . A few other vintage photographs were additionally on view.

Tattoos are so much more than just beautiful designs , they’re reminders of the unique stories that can be told on human skin
Alice Snape

There was additionally an interactive audio / visual display , especially poignant was listening to Trevor Hodges talk about his personal life and the history behind his tattooed skin –see Vimeo below


Angel , G. ‘The human skin collection’ in Hogan , L (ed) Fathom Magazine p.p 21

Hogan ,L (ed) . 2017 . Fathom Magazine (The Journal of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall) Issue 1. Park Lane Press. UK

Snape , A. ‘British Tattoo Art Revealed’ in Hogan , L (ed) Fathom Magazine p.p 9-13

Snape , A . ‘100 Hands’ in Hogan , L (ed) Fathom Magazine p.p 25-29.

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Work in progress : Assignment 3 The Critical Review

The growth of digital technology from the 1990’s onwards led to an immense increase in vernacular photography and was the beginning of what is termed the ‘post-photgraphic era’ . As my particular area of interest is vernacular / snapshot / family photography I have chosen the following question for my review.

Discuss how the the conditions of the ‘post-photographic era’ relate to a particular area or institution of photography.

To what extend , and how , has vernacular photography changed in the ‘post-photographic era’ ? In a digital age how (and why) do we share , use and disseminate once private photographs ?

My scanned notes HERE scan.pdf are very rough initial jottings , my writing is shocking , but I find it helps me focus by quickly writing ideas and page references to follow up . I am behind schedule (as usual) and need to focus on completing the assignment plus finish of the last section of part 3 of the coursework.

Books I’m reading at the moment :

Fontcuberta , J . (2014) Pandora’s camera. United Kingdom :Mack

Howarth , S and McLaren , S. (2016). Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

Larsen , J. and Sandbye , M . (eds.) (2013) Digital Snaps The New Face of Photography . London :I.B. Tauris

Linford.S. (2012) The Cruel Radiance . Chicago :The University of Chicago Press

Long , J. Noble , A . Welch , E. (eds) . ( 2009) Photography Theoretical Snapshots: London : Routledge

Lister , M. (ed) (2013) The photographic image in digital culture . 2nd edition.London:Taylor & Francis

Ritchin , F. (2013) Bending the Frame , New York:Aperture

Rose , G. (2016) . Doing Family Photography . Oxford: Routledge

+ I have ordered a 2nd hand copy of The Reconfigured Eye :Visual Truth in the Post-Photogrpahic Era by W, Mitchell.

I have a few interesting research links to follow up over the next few days :

Vernacular / family / snapshot photography in the post photographic era .

Mimi Mollica Nora There

Operation Photo Rescue

Munemasa Takahashi Salvage Memory

John Clang Being together