My energies in the last month or so of 2016 have been directed in starting to put material –images and text—together for the photo-book that I have started working on. It is a form of memory work as it is an active seeking out and an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the past. The book is situated in the nexus of photography, archive and memory and it is a working through of personal and collective memory based on my photographic archive.
The first stage is going through the 1980s photography archive, selecting negatives from the contact sheets, scanning the selected images, and then digging around the internet for text to act as a commentary on this decade in Adelaide. The assembled material goes into a post on an old wordpress blog, which acts as a repository of selected material that I can then rework into an initial digital draft using InDesign. Or probably Scrivener, before I turn to InDesign, as I do need a word processor and project management tool that would allow me to compose and structure a difficult document.
The book’s current working title is The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia and, at this stage, it is composed of three main sections: Adelaide street images, the Bowden archival project, and pictures made away from the city–at the beach or on the road. I have primarily been working on the first two sections and these are looking okay.
I haven’t seen these archival photos since they were made in the 1980s. They’d been filed away a filing cabinet and forgotten. To my surprise the material is holding up so far and the project is increasing looking to be about place and memory.
I’ll start working through the archives to construct the third section early in 2017. I’m not sure what is there in the archives and I have no conception of the narrative of this section. Other than escaping from a depressing city.
The main motivation behind this is to have the work seen by more people that would see selected prints in an exhibition in a gallery. I do plan to show some the prints in an exhibition at Atkins Photo Lab –it is scheduled for early 2018 in collaboration with Stuart Murdoch‘s large format bridges in Melbourne project. I see the book as complimenting the prints.
The work that I have done so far is just the start of a long process. As mentioned here at Magnum:
Photobooks are also an intensely collaborative process, working with an editor and a publisher to reach decisions on the sequencing of images, to considerations the impact of a book’s size and paper stock on the physical object-ness of the book, and, of course, on the text accompanying the images. There is a plurality of ways of integrating text into a book, from captions, introductions, essays, forewords and after-words, to deeper partnerships with writers throughout the project’s evolution.
Producing a photobook is now possible because technology of digital printing allows for small independent publishing. The problem then becomes one of circulation and distribution so that the book gets to be seen and avoids disappearing into a void. That requires large print runs and paying people to get the book into the right hands–a minimum of $5000, which I don’t currently have because of the 4 exhibitions I was showed in during 2016.
As I work on the book I am beginning to understand that photography and its archives are structured by remembrance and forgotten; and that the photographic archive can become a site from which the narration of history can take place.