Friday, 20 May 2011

Found photographs, part 2....

Why is it that we take photographs? This is something that has been sitting about at the back of my head for some time. Is it because we are just taking them for fun, is it because we are taking them to remember someone or an event, is it because we are trying to say something about something? These are all perfectly valid reasons I think most people would say and rightly so.

When we take them for personal reasons to remember loved ones, it is also interesting to me to see what happens when the love dies and that is something I know I will want to work on going forward as a project! I know when my Mum and real Father separated, she destroyed all of the photographs of him because his memory was too painful for her to have around and so for years, I never knew really what he looked like other than how he was described to me whenever I asked. He was described as tall, bald (lost most of his hair but was very handsome) and if I wanted to know what he looked like, I just needed to see my older sister because she was his double facially, although interestingly, she also used to have a resemblance to Marilyn Monroe too!! The rest of the description on how my father looked tended to then be around what he was like and the memories which people had of him. So although pictures in the physical sense were destroyed, memories were and are not until the people who hold them chose to no longer share them, or they no longer can, and therefore these home snapshots, whilst of interest to the individuals within them, are they sufficiently of interest to those unconnected,? If they are why?
Looking at photographs that other people take, why do we do that, and what is it we see in them (and I am not talking about advertising, documentary or commercial photography here). For me, I would chose to view something in a gallery deliberately or even more so when it comes to buying (actual image or within a book, assuming money is no object of course when it came to the purchasing aspect) because I felt drawn to it and a need to be close to it as it "spoke" to me. Whatever this art form was be that photograph, drawing, sculpture, book (whatever) it would, for me, need to be something that made me think and be drawn into it be that factual or fictitious.
So what makes a good found art photograph?  Recent times, I think of Vivian Maier of course, and in thinking of her and the fact that she was dead when her photographs were found, we will never know why she took the photographs she took and why. Does that matter? Clearly in her case no, so what is it that we see in her images that compels us to look at them over and over again? What is it we see in her photographs are images that are interesting, appealing, mysterious, beautiful, sad, etc, etc.. but why did she take these photographs?  That is something we may never know and of course she took them clearly not realising that they would be taken as seriously as they have been because that was not the reason she took the photographs in the first place (or perhaps she did but was turned down because she could not articulate what it was she was trying to do).  Are there other found photographs out there with a similar intrigue and appeal? I am sure there are but rarer when found on the same scale/situation as Vivien Maier.  So I go back to why is it we take photographs and will the ones we do hold other peoples interest long after we are gone?  Deep eh!

If you want to read more about my musing about found photographs, part one is here

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  1. I love finding's fun to create those stories within. It pains me whenever someone says that a group or decades of photos are destroyed! My grandmother's aunt did the same thing-threw the entire trunk of photos and letters right into the river because she was upset over something. Ohhhh to have those shots...

    Have a great weekend friend! When are you coming to my neck of the woods?

  2. I find old photos intriguing, even when I don't know the people. I want to know how or why the people are there in that particular place. Vintage photos tell of past fashions, cars, etc. An aunt of mine told my mom that Grandma had destroyed many photos, don't know why. It's sad when someone, in a fit of anger or depression, tosses out a family's link to past generations.