Issue 4 — Spring 1995
The cover image is taken from The Poole Collection, some 70,000 uncatalogued glass plate negatives held by the National Library, Ireland. The Poole family were commercial photographers who operated out of Waterford between 1884-1954. Dated c1920, the photograph records The Hon. Mrs. Vaughan Thompson and her sister's children at the Zoological gardens in Dublin. An image from 1920's Dublin that is far removed from the political turmoil of that period. Yet I still enter into this photographic space and enjoy its mental and physical openness. It contains none of the awkward disruptions or self consciousness of the photographer. The pencilled text on the back of the print is A Pretty Snapshot which suggests a casualness and spontaneity that reads well across 75 years. How does this photograph with its commercial intent by the maker, relate to contemporary practice?
The photographs that are used to sell, part of the consumer chain, glorious, flawless with accompanying dictating text, clamouring for attention in the visual flow. On a bill board scale that dominates horizons, or pads out weekend supplements, selling lifestyles alternative and not.
The images from the beach, the 'landscape', the family, it's sunny again. Passed out subsequently, ritually, with running commentary. Framed on mantelpieces, altar-like, daughters and grandsons in America. Held in the wallet between the plastic money, an ever fading currency.
The news photographs, the politicians face, camouflage clothing, beneath the headlines, another story about 'the truth'. The Poole collection contains images that were printed in newspapers of the period. The family recorded such events as The opening of a labour exchange, Waterford 3 March 1910 or Parade to commemorate the battle of Ross, 28 May 1898. Historical values but photographic values? And still technology ever improves the speed of the images' arrival, in an endless updating and monitoring system. Serious and concerned, a moral positioning.
The local press prints, tabloid and brash, nice and easy, all upfront. Smiling faces, children, local interest, back-drops of red roses. Not too many pages from the penny a word, ever illustrating text, cheques and tired ideas.
The artist working through the camera unsure even of name, still a question of validity arises. The dubious cousin. The personal theme introverted, obscure, placed in alienating white cube or off beat space. No Virgin Megastore of photographic hits.
The enthusiast, the hobby, plenty of magazines, never ending rules of thirds and technical guff. Consumed by technique and big lenses, much feared at night classes, soon hopefully to be out bred by camcorder man.
Yet all these categories of camera users to differing degrees are concerned with editing out, with pausing time. All focusing. For the makers of photographs how can we begin to discuss categories of practice that serve such different purposes? How can we become more effective and seize the opportunity with which the possibilities of a shared language presents us?
Photo Works North has now obtained an office space. Situated at the start of Botanic Avenue above the Computer Shop it provides a convenient central location. The space is primarily being used for the production of SOURCE but it will also function as a venue for photographic debate.
— The Editors