An Ideal for Living examines how photography and computer-generated imagery (CGI) can be used to depict future aspirational urban life. It considers how the modern architectural environment becomes a construct for the camera. It focuses on areas of redevelopment around London that are transforming urban space and erasing the memory of the past.
By mimicking the conventions of CGI, these ‘real’ photographs can exist somewhere between a detached documentary aesthetic and the simulated form of this new kind of imaging. There seemed to be a paradox here: on the one hand the photographs refer to conventions of realism associated with aspects of the documentary genre, but on the other, they are making reference to, and taking on the appearance of, a CGI simulation. One acts as a form of archiving the present to later be remembered and the other aims to project a set of social aspirations and desires for the future.
Between Places employs a collage-based technique to create a fictional travel journal in which the remembered fragments of past journeys are assembled in a series of faded juxtapositions. Memory is projected as a surface, as a re-presentation of multiple layers of narrative that are overlaid upon one another. The work explores the material fragility of such repositories of memory. The journal becomes a way of reconstructing past time, while also reflecting on the vagaries of memory and the processes of deterioration and forgetting.
Photography is widely celebrated for its ability to provide a trace, which in some way links us to the past. These images, in contrast, examine our lack of proximity with the past by highlighting the processes of fading, disintegration and forgetting inherent in the materiality of books as repositories of memory.
Increasingly, books and a wide range of other objects, are ‘made accessible’ through processes of reproduction, the photograph displacing the qualities and aura of the original - this new proximity bringing with it an absence of the object itself.
In The Voyage, the technical clarity of the record allows for a close inspection of the textural qualities of the books, revealing the anatomy of their construction. The images explore the impermanent long-term nature of these repositories of memory and the material fragility of their continuing existence.
The sea forms a faint narrative throughout the images; ships are just discernable through the pages and fragments of text refer to tales of the sea. Imagined places are made all the more remote through the action of time and the processes by which they are reproduced. Many of the pages are transformed by the effects of dampness and contaminants, creating a patina of time on the surface of the paper. The books look like they have been dredged up from some watery depths, like remnants recording the lost traces of past voyages. But this is not the record of any specific journey; this work represents a collection of fragmented narratives exploring the book, and the processes of its reproduction, as an attempt to overcome the vagaries and mortality of human memory.
Going Away explores the coast as a ‘remembered place’, where vast expanses of water transform and mould the character of the land and trigger notions of escape and of imaginative departure into past time. It examines the metaphoric potential of a particular stretch of coastal water to allude to wider notions of what is geographically fixed and boundless, stable and unstable, located and placeless. This liminal landscape, where land meets sea, is a place where the action of water transforms the nature of what is seen and thereby imagined. The work explores how these vast reflective spaces can provide a backdrop upon which personal and collective memories of past visits to the seaside appear to be projected.
The materiality of the photographic process forms a central motif in Going Away, the temporality of the record echoing the ephemeral presence of the watery scene it portrays. In making the work, the film was greatly overexposed and then adjustments made in the scanning process. The faded look alludes to the appearance of old photographs, which over time, undergo their own material transformations, being bleached by the action of light and eroded by contaminants, the visible appearance they preserve being slowly “washed away”. The action of water becomes a metaphor for transformation and loss; the materiality of the photographic remnant, while prolonging the passing of the memory, ultimately echoes the transience of the moment it displaces.
Trips to the seaside form an important place in popular memory and family histories. Such occasions were incomplete without being recorded through photographs. Days Out represents a personal journey around a large part of the British coast in search of that same sense of wonder I experienced on childhood trips to the seaside. It is like trying to go back to take the missing pictures that were never taken at the time.