Artist’s Research – Family Photographs – Mohini Chandra, Erik Kessels and Elena Kholkina

Mohini Chandra – Album Pacifica chandra1chandra2 Album Pacifica, made in 1997, is an installation piece that is built up of 100 family photographs framed on a wall. However, there is a difference, what you can see within the frames is actually the backs of the photographs with handwritten captions on them. There are a mixture of descriptive, factual and joke-like captions and they are just clues to what the images look like – you never see the actual photographs. These allowed the artist to build up an interesting narrative which spoke to relationships, displacements and departures. We are forced to make a reading for the traditional family photographs and need the viewer to use their imagination so that they can fully experience the piece in the way it was intended. This means making up the personal histories or memories using the small amount of text and information like the dates and locations or the people’s names that are included in the image. We begin to search for signs, formats and patterns that might indicate they are from the same set of images or from the same roll of film. However, the completely open option for the interpretation of the images allows the viewer to make their own little world up using Chandra’s family photographs. I think that looking at the back of photographs allows us to compare how we  used to speak about photographs and how we do now. Nowadays we would upload them to Facebook and tag people in them, however, previous generations would write little pieces of of information to remind them of the locations, events and people that were included in the photographs. I know that the writing on the back of my family photographs would be completely useless for me if I wanted to find out who my ancestors were as people, I could tell you the dates the images were taken and maybe their names and locations, but I couldn’t tell you anything about their lives. This installation is an interesting look at how we document our lives not only in images but also in how we write about them and what we find important to remember about specific photographs.   Erik Kessels – Album Beauty

Album Beauty, by Erik Kessels, is an homage to the quickly disappearing era of the photo album and the connotations that come along with them. Photo albums used to be common in every home but has now be replaces in the digital era by the ability to store images online and on our computers/harddrives. The book is filled with anonymous stories from all around the world to try and emulate the style of the traditional photo album which usually spoke of “birth, death, beauty, sexuality, pride, happiness, youth, competition, explorations, complicity and friendship.” They were filled with contrived images, set up as a sort of advertisement or proof of status for families to show off in their sunday best and show everybody how perfect their families were. This would have been due to the time, effort and money that it would take to take and process a photograph, however, in modern times we can literally take a photograph at the click of a button and have it digitally edited, printed or uploaded in a matter of minutes. I think that although this has caused an increase in photographs, it has caused them to decrease in value; because we can literally photograph anything, we do. This means that the art of photo albums will never be the same. It will never be what it was in the albums that Kessels has used again, it will now forever be digitised in some way. The different formats within the album show a difference in time and culture that the albums are from and this allows us to see the similarities and differences in how the album has progressed, and practically died out. I don’t know if this is a completely unromaticised look into the album but I think that it is important because of the fact that it allows us to see what we used to use everyday and how we have let this art die out just because we have been given the technology to; it makes us think how important was the traditional photo album in the first place?   Elena Kholkina – Did We Ever Meet? https://vimeo.com/113292040 This book, Did We Ever Meet? by Elena Kholkina, is built up of a combination of her own photographs made between 2011 and 2013 and photograph Tatyana Soldatova’s photographs from the 1980s. The two sets of images are of their friends and they both by coincidence compare directly with each other. The project has become a reflection on time, linking past and present and seeing how our lives eventually mirror one another even if we have never met. I think that this is a really interesting concept because I know that a lot of my family photographs are similar to the ones that I have seen in my friend’s albums and in frames in their houses. This direct comparisons of lives allows us to see that we as humans are all pretty similar and I think that it is a good way of realising this because, as a species, we all strive for uniqueness and I think that this is slightly where we go wrong because in the end if we all try to be different then we all end up the same. It allows us to think about time and how it sometimes makes no difference to how we respond to the world. The inclusion of the digital folders from the artist’s albums allows us to think about how photography has changed and almost allows us to see why they traditional photo album has died out, with new technologies allowing us to do whatever we want whenever we want with our images meaning that we have lost the value of the image a little bit. However, it also allows us to see how easy it is for us to make our own new albums and how this can still be put into book form instead of forever keeping the images on our hard drives to just sit there and never be looked at or thought about again.

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