Photography and Nostalgia
This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
The two go hand in hand. As soon as a photograph is taken the moment becomes a thing of the past, frozen in time for us to ‘remember’. Looking back, sentimentalising a captured memory and the sometimes powerful urge to bring that moment back or to forget it forever become part and parcel of looking at photographs.
Jodie Taylor, one of my third year students is using this premise for her Advanced project.
For this project I want to photograph places that form memories from my childhood. I am currently living back in the house I grew back in after several years away from the family home so there are a lot of memories within the house itself and surrounding areas.
This will be a fine art-based project which will focus on building a better understanding of the places that defined me as a child and places that have shaped me.
Memories of Childhood is part of an ongoing exploration of the physical spaces of Jodie’s childhood. I wanted to draw your attention to a number of things she is doing well.
Firstly, these pictures were shot on 35mm colour film and printed as 6×4’s, presented in a cheap and flimsy black album, very much in keeping with what would have been the norm for working class families in the 80’s and 90’s. These technical decisions have enormously helped to evoke a feeling of an era and, as well as the pictures themselves, really add to the feeling of nostalgia and give a strong sense of British history. It was interesting to me that after Jodie had used Photoshop to ‘perfect’ some scratches and dust she realised that it was ruining their impact. She made the decision to leave the flaws in the image and as a result has added to the imbued meaning within the work.
The lesson here is to always use the format that best suits the work. Sometimes bigger is not better.
Secondly I’ll talk about the photographs themselves. As I was flicking through the modest album I was instantly transported back to my own childhood. The places teenagers used to hang out and what went on in those places were suddenly vivid to me again like it was yesterday. Where kids had their first cigarette, first kiss…
As well as drawing on my own memories I began to wonder what happened in those places in Jodie’s life and as I blended my own past with my imagination of what hers might have been, a narrative emerged. An undefined, slightly ominous and very ambiguous story was being formed through these images of empty places full of meaning. An Open text.
Technically they are well composed, drawing the viewer in through a visual path leaving the eye to rest on a ‘den’ or focal point. I envisage a group of kids crouched smoking under the leaves, or a group of lads jeering by the garage doors, intimidating whoever dared come near.
The colours are aesthetically pleasing. Although the pictures are not portraying a classically beautiful landscape they become objects of beauty in their own right, removed from the reality of what they are depicting.
Thirdly, Jodie’s research is varied, yet relevant. She is well versed in contemporary photographers working with the themes she is interested in. Martin Parr and his observations of British life, Peter Spurgeon’s series about childhood toys is connected but not directly influential. The learned approach to research has helped Jodie position herself among practitioners working in similar subject areas but leaves her open enough to follow her own path. I am very hopeful for the next installment – Private Spaces.