[25Mar p.96] David Favrod created the Hikari series based on his conversations with his grandparents about their wartime experiences. He says on his website, 'I would say that I borrowed their memories. I use their stories as source of inspiration for my own testimony' (Favrod, n.d.). Some of the images have titles, others not. The only image from Hikari shown in the course, and also on Favrod's site is Mishiko (fig. A1) and the associated text states,
Mishiko was the sister of my grandfather. She fell ill during the war, doctors diagnosed poor hydration. In Japan, watermelon is a very popular fruit and holds much water. So her parents gave it to her regularly. But the diagnosis was wrong; it was a salt deficiency and she died shortly after.
David Favrod, Mishiko
Mystery is very important in my work. Indeed it’s really important for me that the viewer brings his or her own history to the work. I don’t explain in the exhibition the stories behind each images there is only my statement in the entrance. So the viewer has the general idea but I hope they will ask themselves to create their own story with the different images.
David Favrod, interview by by Sharon Boothroyd, 2014
Notwithstanding the fact that viewers will do that anyway, it is refreshing to hear a photographer of merit state that point so unequivocally — they're going to, so take advantage of it and relish it.
And remember David Campany from On photographs (2020), previously quoted in the Blog, first while describing Winogrand's Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1957
if a photograph] compels, it is usually for its ambiguity
David Campany On Photographs, p.42
and earlier, when discussing Stezaker's Pair I, 2001
IT IS IN THE NATURE OF IMAGES, all images, to misbehave and exceed meaning in ways that are anarchic, elusive, enigmatic and ambiguous. This is why images are so often accompanied by words that tame and stabilize them. Essentially, however, they remain wild, and therefore have always been a source of great fascination, and great suspicion.
David Campany On Photographs, p.32
Sharon Boothroyd is, of course, the joint author of Identity and Place and she also conducted the interview with David Favrod from which his quote above is taken.
The piece featured in the cmat is If you get married again, will you still love me?, 2002, where she asked fathers who had separated from their families for memories of conversations with their children, then created images ('tableaux' in the cmat) to depict her understanding of / reaction to / conception of the reported conversation. The cmat states that this gives viewers of the images 'access to a world we might not otherwise have to face'. Fig. B1.
Christiane Monarchi interviews Boothroyd on Photomonitor, but before reading that, let’s speculate on the background to the undeniably conceptually-convoluted project. Perhaps there’s a broken home (is that phrase still in use?) lurking in her closet — I’ve no way of knowing. Why would you alight on creating fictional representations of other people’s misery? Perhaps she had easy access to a number of suitable objects in a certain demographic and the sought a suitable vehicle in a Pirandello-esque scenario.
So, the motivations we have come up with are: 1. Working out personal trauma; 2. Objects (see blog) in search of a photo-project.
Incidentally, it is not clear from the cmat whether any of the original characters were photographed or whether it is wholly enacted: that’s either my failing to read it accurately or Boothroyd being too close to the subject in describing her own project or a combination or something else entirely.
It appears from the interview that Boothroyd first tried to photograph the real fathers and children at 'their legally phrased contact time' but 'I wasn’t getting the truth of the moments that mattered' and so decided to 'recreate them', whereby, '[my] physical subjects are actors, friends of friends mainly. But my real subjects are the children who are affected' (Monarchi, 2012).
Thus Boothroyd is choreographing re-enactments of poignant second-hand childhood episodes using standins because photographing real interactions did not capture their fundamental truths. Be that as it may, they are nicely done, aesthetically pleasing, atmospheric and evocative, perhaps an English smaller-scale Crewdson.
Boothroyd adds, in response to a subsequent question,
These moments didn’t actually happen, we made them up and I directed people to look a certain way by asking them to think of certain things, perhaps unrelated. But I don’t think that makes the work any less powerful or true in terms of what it is speaking about.
Boothroyd interviewed by Christiane Monarchi, 2012
Other projects include: The Glass Between Us, 'voyeuristic views inside homes around nocturnal Oxford' (CM: 'did everyone approached agree to participate?' SB: 'Not everyone!')
Edelweiss, 'fresh compositions and portraits including your own children, who seem suspended in a dreamlike state of contemplation' (CM).
[27Mar p.98] This looks at the inclusion of text, sometimes, lengthy passages. The first example is Kaylynn Deveney who documented the life of an elderly neighbour, Albert Hastings,in Newport Gwent. As you will have noted from the SqM preamble exercise, that was where I was born and brought up and so this is of particular interest — it has fired my punctum (my first thought on seeing the picture was 'that's probably Chepstow Road'). This Deveney project was first examined during C&N Part 2 where further details will be found. The image shown in the cmat, fig. C1, depicts one of Albert's pastimes, sitting with pigeons.
We learned from C&N that Deveney was in Newport for her MAPhot and so might idly speculate how she became interested in Albert as material for her course. They seemed to establish a rapport, though.
On her website, Deveney describes how she gradually got to know and started photographing Albert and how,
I wondered too how my perceptions of Bert differed from the way he saw himself. To better understand his feelings about being photographed and his reactions to my photographs, I asked Bert to caption small prints I kept in a pocket-sized notebook. Each speaking from our own perspective, we began the dialog that eventually became [the] book. Bert’s captions create a new context for my photographs, while some correspond to the thinking that shaped the image, others interpret the image in a different way, thereby adding a critical second perspective to this work.
Kaylynn Deveney The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings n.d.
The cmat says of Duane Michals that he 'writes straight onto his prints and negatives, or provides humorous narratives on pieces of paper and plays around with his images in a very experimental way' and concludes that his 'playful approach to photography and text has
characterised his work as iconic and memorable and has influenced a
As with Deveney, we met Michals in C&N Part 2. There is no image in the I&P cmat, fig. D1 is from C&N.
From 1977-1985 Jim Goldberg photographed and interviewed occupants in their homes in San Francisco, and asked the subject to comment on the photograph in their own hand. The inclusion of the subjects language inserts their point of view, subverting our notion of what the photograph could depict through the photographers eye. The work presents a powerful assemblage of perspectives and stories that show a range of experiences among both rich and poor. However far apart these two worlds seem to one another, they both share their possibility for individual misery, dignity, and love.
Jim Goldberg,Rich and Poor
It would appear that Goldberg got there early and set the standard for this sort of thing: his project is difficult to surpass in breadth, depth or æsthetic sensibility.
The cmat concludes this section,
You may wish to include your own writing in your work, or the writing of others
like Albert Hastings. Including handwriting gives the subject a sense of ownership
and involvement in the work: the photographer is not the only voice. Using your
own writing makes the work feel authentic; it might not be, of course, but it gives
a sense of honesty and links it with autobiography.
[30Mar p.100] The cmat opens by questioning the saying 'sticks and stones may …' — my personal view, being the age that I am and an enthusiastic veteran of EST Therapy † is that the saying is entirely correct. More recent schools of thought, I know, differ.
Then we are straight into familiar ground with Calle's Take Care of Yourself, 2009. We met Calle and this project in C&N Part 2, fig. F1. It is a finely conceived and executed project - the cmat gives one entertaining example of,
A rifle shooter made one particularly memorable piece. She shot a bullet through
the printed email in every place the word love was used.
Then Anna Fox's My Mother’s Cupboards, 1990 in which the scrupulously tidy interiors of cupboards are juxtaposed with cruel things said by her father to her mother, that shown in a florid script and typeset as verse (fig. G1).
We are told that,
The witty text shown next to
images of the insides of cupboards, so neat and tidy, is a hilarious portrayal of a
long-term relationship and domestic life, and gives something of an
autobiographical insight into the photographer’s upbringing.
We know Fox from C&N Part 3, though that concentrated on her Cockroach Diary, 2000
The degree of overlap between I&P and C&N in terms of photographers cited might, to some, seem excessive. I am comfortable with, though a little surprised by it.
A key question in evaluating my own response to other people’s projects is, ‘do I wish I’d thought of it first?’
Of those described here, the only one I admire is Goldberg's Rich and Poor: I could never have done that myself as I lack the necessary intrusive urge. I can see that David Favrod managed to work through some personal issues in Hikari. Sophie Calle's Take Care of Yourself is delightfully bizarre and so neatly subcontracted as to barely be a photographic project. I find the other pieces too contrived.
† A central notion of Est is that the individual is entirely responsible for their personal reaction to external stimuli and so 'names cannot hurt me' if I recognise this reality and act rationally on the knowledge.