Archives for the month of: June, 2013

While I was at the Baltic Artist’s Book Fair artist Rachel Gibson suggested I read Roland Barthe’s ‘Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography’ (1981).

A free PDF of the book can be found online by clicking HERE

I found the book thought provoking, especially as it was written prior to the advent of digital photography.

In his book Barthes remarks that cameras were “clocks for seeing”; that cameras were prior to digital technology they were purely clockwork mechanisms.

Digital cameras were not widely available before 1990.Many pre digital camera types such as box cameras and TLRs (twin lens reflex cameras e.g.: Rolleiflex, Mayami, and Bonica etc.) did not even require batteries.

Barthes refers to the sound of these pre digital cameras:

“For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinet making and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.” (p.15)

For Barthes photographs were physical and temporal objects.

“ The only way I can transform the photograph is into refuse: either the draw or the waste basket. Not only does it commonly have the fate of paper (perishable), but even if it is attached to more lasting supports, it is still mortal: a living organism, it is born on the level of the sprouting silver grains, it flourishes a moment, then ages…Attacked by light, by humidity, it fades, weakens, vanishes; there is nothing left to do but throw it away.” (p.93)

Barthes continues:

“Earlier societies managed so that memory, the substitute for life, was eternal and that at least the thing which spoke death should itself be immortal: this was the Monument. But by making the (mortal) Photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of “what has been”, modern society has renounced the Monument.”(p.93)

While the arrival of digital technologies and the availability of cloud storage the mortality of the photograph is no longer a given. Though, conversely neither is the survival of the photograph as a physical object as an aid to memory, as a memento, a nostalgic object to be rediscovered again after several years lying forgotten in a box.

I wonder with memory no longer necessarily tied to temporal physical objects such as a photographic print kept in a box or wallet if there will be a change in the ways we experience our remembrances and nostalgia.

I have also been dipping into ‘Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living with the Past’ by Michael S. Roth

In the chapter ‘Why Freud Haunts Us’ Michael Roth discusses the idea of whether or not the need for our memory of the past may become superfluous. Roth refers to a field of neuroscience which argues we have moved in to an epoch:

“…when “making sense of ourselves and our past” has little relevance to reality, as privacy on the web, psychosomatic erectile dysfunction, or depression as a sensible response to the world.” (p.122)

Roth continues that a particular field of neuroscience then goes further to claim that by no longer trying to understand ourselves through our pasts we may become “liberated from history”(p.123).

With the current ubiquetous nature of photography e.g. mobile phones, (Instagrams), digital cameras which upload images directly to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter etc it must challenge our previous understanding of how our personal histories (and history in general) is both experienced and understood in relation to the lived body.


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I have just spent 2 fabulous days at the Baltic, exhibiting as part of the Baltic Artist’s Book Fair. The fair consisted of a wonderfully diverse collection of book artist’s and their work all of whom were generous and happy to discuss their practices and ideas.

Below gives just a small snippet of some of the artists who were taking part to give a tiny taste of the event.

 Lucy May Schofield:

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Lucy was hosting the wonderful Biblotherapy Artist’s Book Library, a collection of artist’s books which Lucy will personally prescribe for each visitor.

Hugh Brydon, Roncadora Press:

Printmaker and publisher from from Dumfries, Scotland.

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Sarah Morpeth, an artist working mainly on paper:

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Malcom Gibson and Rachel Gibson:

It was the invitation to contribute to ‘Real Art’ (Andy Law, Elspeth Law, Malcolm Gibson and Rachel Gibson’s) artist’s book which provided my introduction and ongoing involvement with creating and contributing to artist’s books.

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Photographer Joshua Cobbin  from Preston just completed his degree in photography through Nothumbria University was showing a selection of his photographic books.

Artists Sara Wicks was showing her beautiful paper based works.

Miami based artist Marie Marcono‘s calligrapic based work:

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Photographs taken while taking part in the Baltic Artist’s Book Fair Friday 14th-Saturday 15th June.

susan mortimer susan mortimer susan mortimer susan mortimerStarburst fold book and photographic chap book featuring b/w photographs of Belmont Parish.

A while back I mentiond the fact that I have ME which impacts on all areas of my life including photography.

One problem I have found troublesome is not being able to hold a camera steady and the resulting camera shake. A solution I have found is to photograph clouds from my garden; there is no traveling involved to increase fatigue and I can sit down and rest in between shots. The clouds are constantly changing and so provide endless photographic oportunities.

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