The Art of Pathography

The artists’ creation of a ‘true self-portrait’ is bound up in meanings of self-hood and individuation; by means of his/her practice becoming a method of developing the artists’ need for self-discovery. Through this self-exploration, the artefact becomes an attempt to reveal something of the artist, a therapeutic tool perhaps, by which the photograph is used as a form of depth psychology. A mixed methodology of autoethnography and thematic analysis is undertaken of the language of response – language generated from the viewing of purely visual data – to examine and record patterns or themes within this information that is relevant to the research question. Through this form of removed analysis - the interpretation of the photograph and not the artist - can a new internal world of the artist be revealed? Is there a particular reading that could be universalised or is this unique to me? Or is the analysis a series of projections, a more of an understanding of the readers? The concerns of this thesis are with the ways in which the production of these photographs and their reception can be incorporated into an art practice and a new self-portrait is revealed.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Blake Morrison Quote

‘I pick up a photograph, a wonderful sepia set piece, the Blakemores circa 1895, my great-grandmother and her four children posed on a bench, two girls in lace dresses and frills, a besuited boy with a book open in his hand, and a baby in a bonnet. I look at them in their allotted roles‚ -the Eternal Mother (she died within a year), the Proud Beauty (married a womanizer), the Scholar (gassed in the trenches), the Daddy's Girl (but Daddy remarried), the Baby of the Family (already with his bottle)‚ -and I follow their stares back to the man taking the picture, the Absent Father, who had his story too, grief and nervous breakdown. I think how cruelly far the reality of their lives was from what the camera had chosen or predicted for them that day, and how the photo lost nothing in feeling for my knowing this, and how that must mean art can lie as much as it likes, or needs to, and we forgive it anything so long as it is art. The people captured here are real, and there's a frisson in knowing that, which you couldn't get from painting or fiction; but truth does not come into it at all.’

Blake Morrison (1993) And When did You Last See Your Father (Penguin 1994 Edition)

What Is A Family Album?

The family album is a volume of experiences, constructed and presented as historical truth and of immense visual and emotional importance to the owner. These images fill in our gaps; they offer us a method of reconciling our existence, and in so doing bear witness to our internal connectedness with both ourselves, and externally with our family and the rest of humanity; it is often the only proof of our existence at all. It creates a link with both the past and the future and eventually, it provides the one and only link between ‘us’ and ‘there’ or ‘them‘ and ‘then’. Cameras go with family life. A family’s photographic album is generally about us now, but becomes a historic document of the extended family. It seems you cannot claim to have seen anything, been anywhere or ‘belonged’ unless you have photographed it.

Through the production of the family album, we create an idealised image of the world and our place within it and more importantly our relationships. In this document we choose to present photographs of us looking our best, both physically and emotionally, where they are praised for their candor, by the audience that we select to view it.

The family album has its truths of course, but the justification that it shows how it really was, is not so clear. It is a very worthy document, however it is also has a role as a defence against our anxieties. Family albums actively promote nostalgia; one could argue that photography, far from documenting the truth, succeeds more in hiding it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a powerful and interesting quote but it's problematic (like everything when you think critically about it). When you post something written by someone else it will be much better if you analyse it or just comment on it each time. Think about your reader(s) and explain to them how the quote is relevant to your PhD thesis. Also think critically about the quote - what objections might there be to this? Why might it be problematic? Never assume that the reader will find the quote as sympathetic as you do - academics are trained to look sceptically at arguments, not to just accept them at face value. For instance, Morrison seems to be implicitly working with an idea of (Jungian?) archetypes. Other readers might take issue with the idea of archetypes (they are perilously close to social stereotypes sometimes, for instance) and can be used as ways of NOT thinking about social roles and the economic/social relations that shape them. Remember that one powerful argument in favour of studying theory is that everything is underwritten by some kind of theory or other (in this case, archetypal theories of human subjectivity and particular theories about the relation of the photograph to reality). Theorists argue that most of us are in denial about our reliance on unconscious theory.