BEST OF SOURCE
archive selections by
VANYA LAMBRECHT WARD
When making the selections from the archive I did not come with a list of predetermined ideas but let the themes emerge from the archive itself, keeping only in mind what I thought might be of interest from a practical, thematic or a contemporary point of view for a 16-18 year old audience. Political and social subjects including themes such as the environment and climate change struck me as particularly relevant, as are portraiture (of society, the self or others) and identity. Following these threads through taken, found and constructed images, thoughts are framed and stories are created. With a shortlist made I aimed to select a cross-section of ideas and topics, which hopefully leads to further exploration. Inevitably, I have picked things using my own aesthetic preferences, for the composition, the humour or the historical relevance. All of the works chosen bring contemporary and (still) relevant topics as well as useful and inspirational ideas.
The photographic series of ‘people in black taxis’ by Patrick McCoy shows us a very different view of Northern Ireland at that time. The series was, as McCoy calls it: ‘an Antidote’ to the spectacular images produced by visiting foreign photojournalists to Northern Ireland covering the Troubles. The images, however, are not without their own tension, we are there with them, looking very directly, yet ignored. The voyeuristic lens traces the tensions between the viewer and the passengers, between the passengers themselves and between the bubble of the black taxi and the outside world. We are accustomed now, to being constantly observed in many ways but this feels different somehow. We are being allowed to bear witness. We can look but can we ever really know?
The Caravan Gallery travels far and wide, reaching audiences it perhaps otherwise wouldn’t, and dips into the ordinary and extraordinary elements of everyday life seemingly effortlessly. It touches beautifully on the places, objects and lives we live in a simple and direct manner, not romanticising or politicising. Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale have created work like this since 2000 and are still travelling, observing and engaging in a manner which is simply fun and genuine.
There are many portfolios in the Source archive that tell a story, with the photographs as a kind of diary, a document of one life of sorts – the words illustrating the pictures in one way or another. This particular work doesn’t tell you a story until you hear the author’s voice. A strange mix of found objects and found images, a mismatch, like the way our lives are really, strange collections of visual prompts if you were to collect them.
In this interview (and accompanying essay) we hear directly from the artist about his long-term love for and engagement with photography, film stills and collage. This is such a lovely way to get to know the work and its strange relationship to surface, movement and the frame. This dialogue between objects and representations create new associations and conjure up whole new worlds and meaning. Although deeply immersed in the world of classic films and steam trains, John Stezaker’s work has timelessness and a wonderful contemporary feel.
Hew Locke’s work is lavish and visually extravagant. They show portraits of a person you can’t see, and in a way, as he says himself, do not or cannot know. Locke wants you to look at this as its own aesthetic, not of something else – him as a person with power and identity, not linked or belonging to one place. He wants to challenge you to consider how we categorise and interpret what we see, what we preconceive and puts himself right in the middle of it, creating a feast for the eyes and food for thought. These patterns, through object and fabrics, create a whole new narrative not identifiable as that of a particular culture and or place, yet they have authority and impact.
We have all seen them, more so now than ever, adverts that tell us whatever it is they are selling us is ok, environmentally aware and sound. The icon of the tree, green grass, the clear blue sky are all being cast as actors in this carefully composed construct; which is watchful not to scare us off. What these two images and text ask is what we want and don’t want to see and how this can be exploited. This off course is what advertising does, but we should not forget how and what is being used to sell us something and eleven years on this is still a very valid question.
This body of work by Danny Treacy can be viewed from so many angles and conjures up so many ideas and concepts concerning our worldly existence. You can approach them as detritus of our modern era, as pods bursting with potential, as objects of splendour or alien assemblages. Gavin Murphy in his writing on Treacy’s work brings us to the idea of origin and the spawning of things, "Those having stemmed from Them" and us as creators of alternate worlds. This brings us into the domain of post-consumption waste and the work does so in a very visually seductive way.
Gavin Murphy, in describing the work by Andrea Grutzer, brings us on a trip and speaks of place and memory. However, he also alludes to the fact that these images are of no place, and resist nostalgia and exist in and of themselves. The abstract details and glimpses of the place Grutzer frequented in her youth are full of colour, striking composition and distortions of space. The richness, yet unglamorous colours and texture of the images creates a unique collage-like yet intimate frame that lets us think of photography and story in a very different way.
There is no limit to the way images or photography can provide us with opportunities for response and art-making. Jez Riley French shows us how we can create music from photographs. As images to respond to as a musician but also as direct music scores to play. They are conduits between the visual and the audible and remind us that when we see images we also contribute to the image. By bringing sound to the discussion he broadens our scope of ‘seeing’. Even just the conscious contemplation of sound when watching these images lets you engage with senses other than the eyes and start to explore things in new or other ways.
How do we start talking or thinking about the environment? The vastness of the topic and issues can be so overwhelming and stifling but in this interview, artist Robin Price and scientist Francis Pope, talk to John Duncan about their collaboration. Their combined expertise makes visible the quality of air (and its pollution) in the given locations. Combining data and a visual language that helps communicate that which we fail to see and therefore fail to connect with. Through technology, they created a unique visual way in which allows for a new connection to the data, the urgency of the topic and the aerosol particles that we are all familiar with but find so hard to visualise.
This review of a book by The Migrant Images Research Group examines the way in which photography uses and sometimes, underrepresents the topic of Migration. How through form-fatigue of images of migrants means they are often ‘Pre-understood’ and loose their impact, meaning and resonance. The article and the book show us how the photographic-trust, which is such a large part of how we look at photography, is also an issue to consider; because sometimes Photography is just is not the right medium. With drawings and words book attempts to create an external perspective on the images or as Jennifer Good explains, "not just about the migrant crisis but about seeing".
This advertising campaign was direct and cheeky and conjures up so many debates it could not be left unmentioned. Ireland (both North and South) was not as globally interwoven as it is now, a more sheltered place you could say. So imagine the half-dressed body and a sassy one-liner plastered across walls in Dublin, Cork and Belfast among other places. This brazenness is not something we are shocked by (anymore) because of advertising but it brings home the manipulation in terms of our directed gaze and the ideas contained within an image. We know things differently now (or do we?) and might think this to be obvious or in some way cheap. But let's meet back here and look at our view, portrayals and ideas around the body, femininity and advertising in another 20 years.