Issue 36 — Autumn 2003
VERNACULAR AND ARCHIVAL
Could a substantial and meaningful body of work be constructed from photographs extracted from official archives? The book Evidence, published in 1977 by the artists Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, seems to pose this question. David Campany looks at this and other examples of photographs removed from (and positioned within) archives and discusses how an archive secures the meaning of photographs.
A similar question about the meanings attributed to photographs that were never originally understood as artworks might also be asked about vernacular photographs that find their way into the art gallery. The implied contradiction of a museum exhibiting both the work of 'modern masters' and 'unknown talents' is never more paradoxically displayed than in the curatorial policy of John Szarkowski, former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Both criticised and applauded as the architect of the cannon of modern photography he was nevertheless consistent in praising the pictures by unknown photographers and including them in his books and exhibitions. Mark Durden describes how Szarkowski's interest in the vernacular developed and points out unexpected parallels between his modernist cannon and the conceptual art that is often seen as a critique of this work.
No mean conceptual artist himself Keith Arnatt has been prowling the Welsh landscape looking for cows. A mixture of speculation about cow perception and human curiosity, these pictures perhaps only show cows looking back but also ask whether cows wonder (as this photographer wanders into their field). More tractable than cows, office workers are used to organising themselves. In the event of Minna Kantonen's visit this entailed standing in 'line of height'. This paradoxical display is perhaps reflective of the abstract heirachies of office life. Or is it a subversion of the established pecking order?
There is a dream-like quality to Julie Fogarty's photographs of her parents and the family home. The pictures also reveal, however, the stresses of her own personal recovery from illness and the developing relationship with her mother in the face of her increasing need for support.
The Beautiful Octopus and Squidz clubs challenge people's perceptions of what a club run by and for people with learning disabilities might be. Mauro Cocilio has produced a set of portraits of these clubbers.
The review section in this issue has been expanded to allow us to give greater coverage of both exhibitions and recently published books. We hope you have recovered from the 'Summer of Photography' in time to enjoy the Autumn photography festival season.
— The Editors