Mini-Series 2 : A Trace of life

As part of my Informing Contexts Module at Falmouth University I have, in the process of editing for my Work In Progress Portfolio, extracted a number of images that form a mini series in their own right.

When I negotiated access to my first vulnerable building in December 2016 I was astonished to discover the abandoned things that were strewn across the spaces that once were busy offices, reception and gym.  I was geared up to capture the light, depth and architecture that was soon to be no more.  Indeed this first building is on its way back to earth now. 

Further visits began to scribe a visual catalogue of the things left behind, but also they were telling s story about these objects that were not precious enough to take away, but signified the purpose of the spaces, the ordinariness of the ubiquitous  beige photocopier – the meeting point, chat and gossip would circle this inanimate object that served as a machine of production and waste.  The anaemic space animated by a large pink bin, whose sides were smeared with marks of life, hard drives and wires that stored and conveyed the data, the life blood of corporate information, a billion emails critical to desk to desk communication and dress-down Friday protocols.

Then the regalia of a masonic life; a year book, latin inscriptions, medallions, bright ribbons, broaches, lists of names, braids.  These were poking out of a drawer in a vast building that had every fixture taken away, auctioned and removed.  This package of bright things was an aberration, an accidental remain.

Lynn Cohen, who based much of her photographic career on the found and the empty spaces of facilities says “There is often an eerie human presence or a hint of an activity just finished or about to begin… Couches and chairs look like people, and there are many other suggestions of the human body: dummies, diagrams and silhouettes”.  She addresses a question for her viewing audience to address “I prefer to allude to things and leave it to the viewer to fill in the details. Like Brecht and Godard, I want the audience to do some work”.  From interviews conducted by William A. Ewing, Vincent Lavoie, Lori Pauli and Ann Thomas, February 2001, and published in for Ann Thomas, No Man’s Land: The Photography of Lynne Cohen. Ottawa: Thames & Hudson and NGC, 2001.

Susan Sontag wrote that a photograph is “not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stencilled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.”  Sontag S. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977 p. 154. 

These images are a trace of action, captured in a static, left behind state.

Here is the mini series on human detritus, echoes of work and a kind of worship.

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Mini-Series 1

Informing Contexts, MA Falmouth University.

I am writing about my images that fascinated and reference other artists but do not make the final edit into my work in progress portfolio.  Here work that references Becher & Becher.

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figure 1

In seeking out opportunities for accessing buildings that are at peril, once successful in the negotiations, the finds are really fascinating and engaging.  I have developed a method of categorising images as I move through spaces.  I will collect details, vistas, material intersects, light, shadow, darkness and particularly the human trace that is present, whilst human activity is passed by, often for ever, a building soon to be no more. As Sontag notes “Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still revealing, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth” On Photography. Dell Publishing Company, New York, 1977

This is the case here in this mini series, figure 1.  These eight stools have stood decades of service at the Birmingham City University Conservatoire.  Having enquired about them the Assistant Principal told me that pianists tend to not only wear away the stools through the many hours of practice seated at the keyboards, but as their digits are always in need of exercise and movement there is a tendency to, perhaps subconsciously, pick away at surfaces, thus as soon as a crack appears in the surface, this is opened up by busy fingers to reveal the material edges and the foam within.  This is highly visible in these 8 stools. 

Perhaps it is undeniable to admit that the work of Bernd Becher and Hill Becher was on my mind as soon as my eyes were drawn to these pieces of identical but different pieces of furniture.  They had to work considerably harder to capture their series on water towers and other industrial installations. (accessed 13th April 2017).