September 23, 2021

Archives & how to tell a story

Looking at how to engage and entertain.

When we’re making new work we’re still tied to the archives of imagery that went before us, they are present within us. What we’ve seen, heard and looked at inform our work.

Archives – making sense of organising a history of images.

Anthropology & photography – used as a system of control, categorise and control according to physique. Reminds me of Martha Rosler’s Vital Statistics of human.

Women and the medical gaze. Duchenne 1862 The mechanism of Human Physiognomy. Opposite of collaboration as a reference.

Ways to retell the story of an archive

  1. Change names (Malcilm X)
  2. Change what’s in it (Anthonu Luvera – queer history in museum) – also made me think of women in art history and the retrospective exhibitions of their work.
  3. Transfer power (Andres Orjuela) – press images, violence and addicts dehumanised. He attempted to recreate and recontextualise, to redress their humanity.
  4. Reorder, subtract or add to. Kensuke Koike collab with BeijingSilvermine No more, no less. Collages with nothing added and nothing taken away.
  5. Recontextualise/rephotograph/retell. Arab Umage Foundation. Amak Mahmoodian – Iranian Harem, faces of women to retell the story. Hashum al Madani – social history, scratched out wife.
  6. Highlight key elements. Sarah Waiswa “Robert, My Boy” taking elements away, you can’t have him.
  7. Reorganise. Create a new archive. Francescca Seravalle “First Photos”
  8. Entertain. Beijing Silvermine, Xian book.
Beijing Silvermine, Xian book

The book Xian reminds me of some other books I came across in my research, in terms of original and creative ways to display something in a book format. I’ve put that in a separate post which can be found here

Modes of documentary (how do we tell the story)

Expository. Documentary/Press, verbal commentary/narrator. Addresses spectator directly with a perspective/argument. Sober. In photography, straight framing/grids/measurement/anthropology. Mathieu Asselin: Monsanto. He uses text, archives and collaboration.

Poetic. Subjective, artistic expression. The emotional, rhythmic and lyrical aspect of the historical world. In photography, personal experience, stream of consciousness, loose visual associations. Robert Frank, The Americans. He uses the language of the flag. Poetic but not sentimental. Race & antagonism. The tedium of work. Alienation, class.

Observational. Observe as it happens. No interference. Candid photography, street photography. Ignores the effect the photographer has on the scene. Chris Killip, The Last Ships. Candid photos of Northeast shipping town. These are also poetic. Skinningrove is another of his series.

Participatory. Interview with the subject/actors. Film: The Lift Marc Isaacs. Films people in a lift. Tony Fouhse: The User. Stephanie the addict and he tried to help her get her kid back.

Performative. This raises the question, what is knowledge? How personal experience provides entry into an understanding of the more general processes at work in society – stressing the emotional complexity of experience from the perspective of the maker. This makes me think of my work and the work of Martha Rosler. Feminist Avant Garde 1960s (chapter in Tallis) Stresses the tone and mood, more so than arguments and evidence. Ivars Gravlejs: Early Works. Tells the story of going to school (pictures of his teachers).

Reflexive. Awareness of the process. Speaks of the problems and issues of presenting the world. Sets out to re-adjust the assumptions and expectations of its audience. Relies on techniques that attempt to jar us, forces us to think about photography as a construct. Press peoples buttons by having an understanding of the process. A Cultural History of Photography in Tallis. Gets people to question what they see. Joan Fontcuberta, Herbarium (photographed invented plants in the style of Karl Blossfeldt, new objectivity, the language of science, white background, deadpan). In his work he always references art history.

Photography & Anthropology book

Finding a voice, participating and observing, reflecting on.

What do we want people to see/think/feel? What is my position in the process?


What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Photography and Participation Ben Burbridge &Anthony Luvera

References to follow up

Hito Steyerl, 2010 Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy.” e-flux 21

Fraser, A. 2011. L’1% c’est moi, Barcelona: MACBA

Azoulay, A. 2008. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone. [Google Scholar]

Beech, D. 2008. “Include Me out! Dave Beech on Participation in Art.” Art Monthly 315: 1–4. [Google Scholar] “a more nuanced “constellation of overlapping economies of agency, control, self-determination and power” should inform how we view participatory practices.”

Researching a creative brief

  • What does the organisation / charity do?
  • What visual language are they using?
  • How are they using visuals?
  • Are they using text? Are there any keywords that keep appearing?
  • What photographers and artists have they worked with in the past?
  • What have those photographers and artists created for this client?
  • Where do the client’s campaigns appear?
  • How do they present these campaigns on different media (print, social media, online)?
  • What additional materials (workshops etc) has the client used?

Topic 1: The Creative Brief Reflection

  • What different research methods exist?
  • What research methods have you used in the past?
  • How could you utilise other research methods to inform your current project?
  • What has surprised you this week?
  • What has challenged you this week?