1: Positions & Practice

Excerpts from Research Project Proposal

Module 1 Assignment: Research Proposal

Work in Progress title:  [My Grandmothers] imaginary museum

Research Objectives

“A Presence inert to time and space, it’s not so much an image as the trace of the act of seeing” 

(Graham Clarke, The Photograph, 221)

Is the act of seeing the same as the act of remembering? Am I meticulously recording my grandmothers possessions along with their stories so as I can remember? Or are these images I am making for the viewer to make their own judgements about? These are all questions I intend to spend the next three modules researching, investigating, making and taking to come closer to resolving.

 Taken from work in progress portfolio, Anthony Prothero, 2017

Taken from work in progress portfolio, Anthony Prothero, 2017

One takes a photograph in the present in order to be able to look back on that moment and remember, reflect and treasure in the future. Modern day memory making is now more accessible and frequently used at the touch of a button on our phones…which makes me wonder whether the meaning of photographing for memory has changed over time. We now use technology and social media as a way to archive our memories, sharing them with people, but do they hold the same weight of meaning, emotion and importance when they are so frequently showcased and so easily accessible? These photographs and artefacts that my grandmother has collected over time have such a significant meaning and sentiment to not only her as a record of her entire life but also to that of my growing up as her grandson and the accumulation of my own memories.   

However, I believe that this collection encourages personal reflection of ‘memories’ and family history for that of an objective viewer. The museum like way in which she has displayed these moments in her past is as if they are exposed to whomever wants to look closer, observe and ultimately reflect themselves. 

Through my practise I am not adding to, but taking on the role of preserving my family album. I have spent a great deal of time looking closely and inspecting the traits and the characteristicsof the already cemented images in our familyalbum. Charlotte Cottons description of the snapshot aesthetic (which is where my fascination for the archived image and the family album derived from) runs true with many of the images I have looked at both on the walls and in the cabinet, when she talks about the …. “out of kilter framing, blur, uneven flashlight, the colouration of the machine rented snap…” (Cotton, C) All aspects of the modern day family album which will be lost with perfect digital copies stored on the cloud or on hard disks in computers. The tangible object is slowly dying out to be replaced by pixels of memories. It is for this reason Its incredibly important to me that the end product of this works is to be a tangible object in the form of a hand made book and exhibition. If I get to exhibit the work I want the viewer to be faced with questions about aspect and size which I have reflected in my work in progress portfolio submission through displaying the dimensions I intend the printed images to be. I would like to look at ways of displaying the work online which could mirror the viewers response to the images as if on the wall of the gallery. 

Further research with regards to output of the work will involve looking at dedicated website hosts that have a zoom function to be able to look inside the cabinet in close detail as well as the possibility of VR tour software to see the work. Although there is a strong possibility this will end up looking too much of a gimmick; but this is something I would like to explore.

Fox Talbot talked about “Photography’s museological dimension”. My grandmothers house has a definitive parallel to this relationship between photography and the museum. All items are displayed for the viewer to see in a shrine like appearance. Maybe this is somehow linked to the fact that my grandmother has always lived in vicarages and rectories because of my grandfathers role as priest? Again this will form another thread of my research.

I would like to continue the idea of collaboration whether it with the viewer or with my grandmother or both. I was recently introduced to the collaborative project Vox Populi by Fiona Tan where collaboration is at the heart of the work which has asked further questions about the idea of collaboration and how it could work later on…

From this, and as I develop the work and increase my understanding of my research, I plan to look further into post photography. …”Given the abundance of pre-existing visual material in our hyper-documented world…” ( Allison Meier ) 

 

Questions/ thoughts raised so far

 - What it is I am looking for?

- Who is the work for / My Audience / Output

- What is Post Photography?

- Ideas surrounding the Archivist and the Photographer

- Photography and the museum?

- Viewer participation

- Is the work more about its output and the role of the viewer?

 

Resources

General -

Gallery and museum visits - Houses turned into Museums - ie Anne Frank’s house/museum http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/From-hiding-place-to-museum/Saved-from-demolition/

Falmouth University Student support - To Improve reading skills as there will be a great deal more reading of theories and philosophy to underpin my ideas and image making. 

National Science and media museum 

https://www.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk

Foam Museum workshop programme.

https://www.foam.org/museum/programme

 

Research -     

Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC)

http://www.photographyresearchcentre.co.uk

Photographic History Research centre 

http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/art-design-humanities/phrc/photographic-history-research-centre-phrc.aspx    

 

Bookmaking -

London Centre for Book Arts 

http://www.londonbookarts.org

Bookworks 

https://www.bookworks.org.uk/bookbinding-binders/

 

Schedule

I shall be spending approximately 25 hours per week working on this investigation depending on freelance commitments. As I don't live near my family I will be travelling home as often as both time and financial restraints allow. A major part for me so far has been the opening up of a dialogue about the work, my grandmothers possessions, and stories about my ancestors with both my grandmother herself and my mother. This will continue throughout the investigation and wont be included in the schedule as it will be such a fluid continuous process.

Sustainable Prospects will look at why I am making this work and what is my responsibility to the audience and also to my grandmotherand other family members as collaborators. I will start to look at the contemporary photographic market and how I can advertise this work to potential galleries and how it will aid my commercial photographic career. As I hope in the future to work in higher education teaching photography I hope to get some experience talking about my work both in its theoretical and physical placingsto gain experience in talking publicly and also in aiding other students with their work. 

Informing Contexts will give me the space, enthusiasm and guidance to really underpin my practice within philosophical, theoretical and critical theory. I will look at the relationship between Memory and Photography, Historiography and why we make photographs in the structure of the family album. The familial hierarchy or authorship where in particular Freud talks about the patri, matri, and sibling archive. Where do I fit into this hierarchy as grandson? Is this a different kind of authorship as I am really rephotographing images that have already been made. 

The Surfaces and strategies module will be spent looking at the output of the work. This will be mainly the investigation of the book binding and large format printing processes. I will be exploring how my audience will view my work and what level of audience participation there will be as I would like it to be more of a multi-sensory experience in some shape or form. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbert James Prothero - The Gazette 1957

After making a photograph of the cigarette case belonging to my great great grandfather in the cabinet I wanted to see what else I could find out. Tracing my Great Great Grandfather has been quite a challenge but I just came across this Gazette supplement from 1957 where his name came up. Yet to find out what it is referring too but exciting to find a document referring to him by name and number. 

 https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41089/supplement/3396/data.pdf

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41089/supplement/3396/data.pdf

Fiona Tan: Vox Populi, London

The Photographers' Gallery has commissioned Fiona Tan to make London the focus of the fifth and final installment of her Vox Populi series.

Following her work in Norway, Sydney, Tokyo and Switzerland, Tan is now using the photograph albums of Londoners. The artist is selecting up to 300 images from these albums to be scanned. These will become a wall-based installation to be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, as well as an artist's publication.

This work will present a collective image of London, calling into question how we choose to represent ourselves, and how we consume the representation of each other.

photonet.org.uk/index.php?pid=599

Interview filmed January 2012

© The Photographers' Gallery

University of Bath Portrait Paintings

Why so formal?

I really love these portrait paintings. After working at the University for nearly 3 years as a photographer I have seen first hand the formal style of images they require and have even written into a document for freelance photographers describing portrait poses and depth of field etc. These paintings have almost exactly the same formality to them as many of the photographs taken of the Vice Chancellors at the university... Just caught my eye and found it quite interesting. 

What creates a formal style of image making?

Moving Image

 Film still, Anthony Prothero, 2017

Film still, Anthony Prothero, 2017

I have started to develop some moving image content for this research project. Here is a still taken form the footage so far. Not sure what form the narrative will take yet but I had the idea whilst talking to my grandmas about the items in the cabinet of curiosities. Perhaps a narrated overlay whilst the images are on a loop? 

Work in Progress Portfolio Layout

 sketchbook view, Anthony Prothero, 2017 

sketchbook view, Anthony Prothero, 2017 

I like the simple grid layout of this design. Ive struggled with ideas for presentation as I feel this work will develop into more of a tangible object than online gallery. Perhaps the Gallery should be images of the printed photographs or exhibition views of the images how I would like them displayed. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 14.20.06.jpg

When you click on an image it reverts to lightbox view which is great for seeing the images in more detail but you do lose the description which then only comes up in a faded black box. I would have liked the description to be beside the images like on my commercial website. This would mean having a seperate website again for commercial, MA Research and MA Practise. Perhaps something I need to look at doing..?

On further reflection with regards  to layout I felt I wanted to give the viewer more of an experience whilst looking at the images. My work has started to parallel with hat of the museum and so I decided that the images should be of different sizes and positions to make you move around the screen in a similar way you would look at objects in the museum. There is still the same zoom function to get a closer up view of the work on smaller screens.

 Screenshot, Anthony Prothero, 2017

Screenshot, Anthony Prothero, 2017

Reflections on Photography's role of suspending time and influencing memory.

 Mnemosyne (Marie Spartali, 1844-1927), 1868,  http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1974.52

Mnemosyne (Marie Spartali, 1844-1927), 1868, http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1974.52

Through out my current line of enquiry I have frequently returned to the idea that photography has some kind of responsibility of suspending time. Whilst I chose to photograph my grandmothers possessions at that precise moment it was subconsciously for a reason. The cabinet of curiosities (as I now refer to it as) holds a distinct parallel to that of a museum. A museum is a space where I have always thought of as timeless. Whether it is showing items from the past future or present whatever timeline it refers to is in a state of suspense to encapsulate the mind of the viewer. Is this what I have done with my studies of my grandmas's cabinet?

"In domestic culture, photography conventionally has a place as a time machine" (David Bate) But what time is this machine accounting for? For me photography stopped the time that these items were placed in the cabinet of curiosities. Although not placed there att he same time the cabinet is the museum and my act of image making is creating the memory archive for me to look back on in the future. As a severe dyslexic my own way of remembering text is to write notes and draw images reflecting to the words I am reading. In the same way do I photograph to remember times and events within the familial space? Is this relied on too much for memory in general? and how will this modern digital archive effect the memory of future generations? 

Geoffrey Batchen in his essay "Forget Me not" refers to the writing of Nancy Martha West when she talks about Kodak and its advertising slogan: 

“[Kodak] enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”  2 (Summer 1992), 135–140; and Nancy Martha West, Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia (Charlottesville: University Press ofVirginia, 2000).

Similarly to this idea that the camera and in the case of Kodak I imagine it is talking about the Box Brownie gives the user the power to make images to remember things which without an image would be forgotten. How does this translate into the modern day snapshot image? We now have the camera phone where these memories can be made instantly and stored on the cloud, in image libraries or various other options for the digital archive. Will these digital archives last for ever? Like the jpeg image will the quality reduce over time and like an old sun bleached photographic print fade away. Is that memory then gone? Or is it just that print that has been erased? 

I feel that these modern day archives mean that we are no longer relying on our natural memory to record events or places we have been and solely rely on the mechanical archive or digital memory bank to record these special moments for us. Another example of this is at live music events you see hundreds and thousands of people stood with here mobile phone in the air recording whole sections of songs or the entire gig. They are watching the event throughout he eyes of their smartphone. Have they even witnessed the event? Or have they only seen what the camera phone wants to record? The archive of the "prosthetic memory" (David Bate)

 

Bibliography

- David Bate (2010) The Memory of Photography, photographies, 3:2, 243-257, DOI: 10.1080/17540763.2010.499609 

-FORGET ME NOT PHOTOGRAPHY & REMEMBRANCE ,Geoffrey Batchen, 2004 Princeton Architectural Press, http://voyager.falmouth.ac.uk/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=176&recCount=10&recPointer=3&bibId=694331

 

What is Critical Theory and why does it matter?

Critical theories underpin our ideas when making work. They connect our work to the work of other practitioners, and In my own practise theory pushes me to investigate further and helps me to define my goals. As far as why does it matter? Personally, without thinking critically and theoretically whilst making and developing work, I don't think there would be purpose nor direction to what I/the maker is doing.

Tutorial Reflection 13/07/2017

After missing a few sessions with Gary it was a great chance to refocus my practise and to think about a path forward with my research. 

 The Cabinet of Curiosities, Anthony Prothero, 2017

The Cabinet of Curiosities, Anthony Prothero, 2017

Initial Thoughts/Dicussion from the tutorial

The image above was taken whilst photographing my grandparents house just after my grandmother was taken into hospital. Acting as more of the observer thant he photographer I recorded the position and state of indevudlal items in their living room so as to archive their possessions. 

This act of recording was very different to the constructed images I made after the death of my Aunt as I was fast moved from New York on September 11th so the work was made form a distance with time and thought over each image.

This new work was very much at the scene, and is a portrait of my grandmother without having to have her in the images. Its an investigatory works of preservation. The weaving together of feelings and emotions in the family surrounding her illness.  This close up of the cabinet which Gary called "The Cabinet of Curiosities" is honing in on the sub stories of my grandmother.

These stories are far less penetrable than the memories and the imaginations I created in my previous work post tragedy. The images int he cabinet have far more layers and this image is charged by the story about he moment the image was made rather than just what the image is made about. 

Gary gave me an example of the Tsunami where photographers went and took photographs of the suspended time after it had hit. The camera in this instance was there after the time had been suspended by the environment rather than the usual considerations hat the camera with its shutter is what suspends time. 

Photography has a responsibility of suspending time to record a moment for us.

Post tragedy the camera role isn't to suspend but to record .

The cabinet of curiosities is a suspension off time in my grandparents home, of their life and something that the camera can't do. So because of this has my role in making this work changed form the photographer to more of the role of curator. This moment of time was already suspended beneath the glass of the cabinet and the arrival of my camera has only recorded this suspended state.

These images are no less powerful than a post tragedy image of my previous work which was far removed from the actual event, but the power i think comes from the moment it was taken. Out of control of the situation and with the moment already suspended by my grandmother through her archiving my camera could only record.

Further Ideas for my research project.

look at photo mapping. To create a pictorial map of the cabinet of Curiosities. Perhaps in some way to document the stories that go along with each image.

Does the project take on the role of the investigator? Meticulously recording the size shape and location of every image int he cabinet as some kind of archived record? Perhaps the story of each item can be partnered with its image in the cabinet to form a large mapping of the memories. 

Research into Photobooks: The restoration Will

 

Further reading:

Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis Paperback – 1 Dec 2011

by Geoffrey Batchen (Editor), Mick Gidley (Editor), Nancy K. Miller  (Editor), Jay Prosser (Editor)

New research work/ideas: Grandparent's House

 I remember these two decanters and this photograph have been on the top of this cabinet for as long as I can remember. Even in their old house it looked the same. Perhaps its how it has always been arranged? 

I remember these two decanters and this photograph have been on the top of this cabinet for as long as I can remember. Even in their old house it looked the same. Perhaps its how it has always been arranged? 

 As a child I used to spend hours taking all the little trinkets out of this display case and putting them back in again. vintage tweezers, a clothes brush, old binoculars to take to the opera... This case has such history and everything in it has a story to tell. Maybe I should shoot everything individually along with its story?

As a child I used to spend hours taking all the little trinkets out of this display case and putting them back in again. vintage tweezers, a clothes brush, old binoculars to take to the opera... This case has such history and everything in it has a story to tell. Maybe I should shoot everything individually along with its story?

 A detail of the above display cabinet  My grandma Sue was a staff nurse at the hospital for 42 years. Here is a photograph of her and my Aunt Sarah as a baby. She thinks it was taken with the box brownie she gave me. Must continue tot ry and get some film for it...

A detail of the above display cabinet

My grandma Sue was a staff nurse at the hospital for 42 years. Here is a photograph of her and my Aunt Sarah as a baby. She thinks it was taken with the box brownie she gave me. Must continue tot ry and get some film for it...

Scarlett O'Flaherty - Coal Dust & The White Rose

 Exhibition View: Scarlett O'Flaherty, Coal Dust & The White Rose, Truman Brewery 2017

Exhibition View: Scarlett O'Flaherty, Coal Dust & The White Rose, Truman Brewery 2017

"The Miners strike of 1984 was a defining moment in Margaret Thatchers attempt to destroy the power of the trade union movement. What has become the most bitter dispute in modern industrial history continues to impact the lives those involved. The twelve month long strike resonates today and has shaped the lives of these men. This project by Scarlett O'Flaherty is a collective memory of the men from the South Yorkshire coalfield." - Lensthink Yorkshire

This work firstly attracted me on a purely aesthetic level. A beautifully delicate balance of images shot in a very quiet and considered way. I have known Scarlett for a few years now and have seen her photography progress through her degree at Plymouth University. This project then attracted me through its political view. The miners strike as talked about above is something that still effects families to this day and I think this documentation of the strike has been done in a very strong way. I particularly like that my eye is taken from portrait to landscape with these beautiful little comers of still life all the way through the project. 

You can see more of Scarlett's work on her website here.

A Letter to my past

My Grandmother told me that she was born near to where I now live in North London. I decided to send a letter to her old address to see if the new occupiers would let me visit to photograph them and the house. This could be the start of a new direction for my research into people I am linked to in some way? 

Reminds me of Sophie Calle's work where she follows strangers, hires private investigators and ultimately is looking into connections. 

 A letter to my Past, Anthony Prothero 2017

A letter to my Past, Anthony Prothero 2017

A previous post where I found her house on Google Street View:

https://anthony-prothero-crj.squarespace.com/blog/2017/6/19/104-malford-grove