31 October 2012

Book du jour - three generations

A quick look through some family photos on file found these images of myself, my mother, and my (paternal) grandmother at various ages; hence the working title "three generations". Some of the resulting photos are too small and fuzzy to use, and I do have other photos that can be scanned in to get better quality images, if fuzziness turns out to be undesirable. Or, the blur might be part of the "story".

The idea for the book is still vague, but it involves printing onto tracing paper. Or, maybe not... though the first idea involved overlaid images. But as I think about it, more possibilities emerge.
Helga Paris's self-portraits 1981-1989
The seed was planted while I was looking at the self-portraits of Helga Paris in the "photography in the DDR" exhibition last week; I started thinking about a similar project, ie looking at yourself from this photographic distance ... and I thought about how the photos we already have on file also contain that distance; was there a way of removing the extraneous parts of the image... (This short blog post tells how Helga Paris got started making her self-portraits, and how taking the pictures became cathartic.)

I'm trying to untangle two strands that feed into the project. The act (and residue) of looking into the camera (or not) is one. This leads to thoughts about how looking back at that image, especially if it's yourself (your earlier self), is a very strange experience - who was she, then...who is she now? who was the woman who was your mother, your grandmother ... did you really know her? did you know your younger self, and what do you think of her now?

The other strand is perhaps less elusive, more concrete: the mistaken belief that covering the eyes, eg in medical photos, will preserve the subject's anonymity. Thought, by hiding their identity - in effect, it is meant to erase the person, leaving just their disease. So ... what happens if the opposite is done - is showing just the eyes going to reveal the identity, preserve the "person" ... even, remove the dis-ease? what will seeing "just" eyes show a viewer, someone who knew the person or who did not ... is that person recognisable, and if so, does it matter?

Is it relevant that "The eyes are the mirrors of the soul" - or does that sort of revelation need duration and presence, which a momentary photo can't supply?

These sort of swirling questions will settle down once the work is real-ised - made real. The format, though, brings its own questions!

Coincidentally (or perhaps - tangentially), the book of short stories I'm reading (Penelope Lively's "Making It Up") yielded this:
"The distorting feature of anyone's perception of their own life is that you are the central figure. Me; my life. But nobody else sees it thus. For others, you are peripheral. You may indeed be of significance to them - of great significance perhaps - but equally you may barely make an impression; either way, you are not the seeing eye. You are an adjunct, a bit player."

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