The family album: An exploration into the connection between the family photograph, (the event) and memory recollection.
The following images are a selection taken from a wider body of work and were submission for the qualification of MA by Research in Contemporary Fine Art Practice at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) in 2012.
Each section deals with a subsection of the body of work. The question was to explore if there is a place of the Family Album in contemporary society. To see the final body of work click the following link (pdf).
Who do I think I am?
The continuation and the now.
From the idea of building a collection of images from memory, this project looks at images of me as an adult, exploring my heritage. I used to find it weird that people would say I looked like my mum. My Mum is female, what an odd thing to say...
As I get older I can see that I am becoming more and more like my parents. I have a collection of images of my family that I never met. My Dad's parents died in the early 1970s and my Mum's parents passed away in the early 1980s.
Synopsis of the Family Album Project
Photographs play an important role at times of celebration, grief or remembrance, holding signifiers to unlock a past time or event; as Gillian Rose states, “a textual archive, or as an ideology ...that is, as a social practice.” So why does social convention dictate that we collect formulaic images “from the ‘little’ moments and events of the private and the everyday to those ‘grander’ moments and events of formalised and public occasions.” (Joan Gibbons) The intention of this research is to explore the subject of the family album focusing on the family snap; is it historical fact or an edited pseudo reality? The investigations undertaken into the ritual of photographing family gatherings and events is based on my personal experiences (memory) and photographs taken in the first seven years of my life. I endeavour to discover if the photograph is an accurate description of the event, if it is a tool to recall memory, or is it that photographs merely beguile memory?
Photographs are part of our lives and as such, since the introduction of affordable and less-cumbersome equipment, at the centre of any family gathering. At these functions will be the budding photographer capturing the moment intensely and from all angles. Photography does not stand still and is ever evolving, cameras and storage formats change as do the tastes and fashion of the subjects within the frame, but what the photograph presents is indisputable evidence that an event took place.
The research enquires whether the family album has a place in the twenty-first century and if so in what form it takes. Photography is evident everywhere, technology is constantly developing and since its discovery in the nineteenth century has become more accessible. As more photographs are taken has this changed the habits in which we record our existence, or is it simply that many more photographs of the same subject matter are being taken? Ultimately are photographs still important in a world where so many outlets are available to record our lives?
This project stems from a handful of photographs taken in my first seven years of childhood (1976 – 1983); the included research is used to discuss the photographs as artefacts and discover the intrinsic value, information or zeitgeist they hold. The first seven years of childhood have been specified in reaction to the phenomenon of infantile amnesia. This refers to the time when, as adults, we are unable to recall very early memories. The reason is because during early infancy the brain is only beginning to develop memory and communication skills. Sigmund Freud states that it is at this time we develop our character and sexual appetite. Within this research the characteristic of infantile amnesia discussed, is in relation to remembering family events. The overarching question covering the different avenues of investigation is: The family album: An exploration into the connection between the family photograph, (the event) and memory recollection. Is the family album an indexical journal of family history or simply an edited reality?
Methodologies implemented within this research include; referencing family archives, shooting new photographs and moving image using a range of formats to reflect how we took photographs in the 1970s and 1980s and how photographs are shot today (2012). This work has been underpinned by extensive contextual research into other artists’ who also work with the family album along with interviews from participants. Through a wide and varied range of inquiries the work culminated in a road trip in France to attempt to recover the unheimliche i.e. the testing of the opposite of what is familiar.