This issue is part of a broader Archives Season that includes the publications of archive related back issue material on our website, the release of seven new films about photography archives and a series of audio interviews (see our website for more details). Here, we tackle two of the major developments in photography archives. Firstly, Nick Galvin, who has worked in a number of major UK archives, looks back over the last fifteen years of upheaval in commercial picture libraries and asks what benefits digitisation has brought us. Secondly, we have asked a number of artists and photographers to talk about the way they have employed archives in their work. Although there are common themes of accidental discovery each has adopted a different approach to the collections they have looked at.
Wendy McMurdo is interviewed by Duncan Forbes, and they discuss her new work on robotics in the context of earlier projects which examined our evolving relationship with the digital world. McMurdo points to the apparent mismatch between the sophisticated science behind the robots, their physical crudeness and our willingness to suspend disbelief to engage with them.
The rise of digital culture has been accompanied by a concern in photographic discourse with the materiality of photography. For several years Jacqueline Butler has been studying the collection of photographs and glass plate negatives belonging to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) held in the archive of the Media Museum in Bradford. By photographing detailed fragments and edges from the surface of the negatives she produces images that suggest landscapes. These invite us to speculate on the nature of analogue photography and on reading or viewing as invitations to dream.
A documentary project on sex workers in Manchester led Sarah Eyre indirectly to experiment with photographing wigs. By subtly animating them and using low-fi printing to make the pictures she works against their clichéd eroticism.