Adelaide, black + white, people, urban

photo-book : The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia

December 28, 2016

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.

newspapers boy, Adelaide

newspaper boy, Adelaide

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.

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