I am interested in the way in which Gerhard Richter created a vast number of ‘overpainted’ photographs. These are categorised into groups such as ‘self portraits’ and ‘family’. Each colour photograph has been overpainted with oil paint, and simply titled using a date. The subject of the photograph is juxtaposed with abstract paint gestures. By painting over a photograph, Richter almost defaces the original image and obscures the meaning by giving it a new narrative. The boundaries between painting and photography are blurred, the photograph becomes a surface on which paint can be applied. Photographs which did not make it into the photo album were repurposed and transformed into a mixed media piece of art.
I printed a page of A4 negatives which I had scanned into a computer and inverted to form positive images, onto acetate. I realised that the combination of the inkjet printer and the shiny acetate meant it would not dry correctly. I decided to press a sheet of paper onto the wet acetate, to pick up some of the ink images. Naturally, the images became obscured and degraded, but I found the resulting print quite intriguing. I also tried printing the photographs onto a piece of tracing paper, and this worked well. Tracing paper has a softness and fragility to it, so I felt it suited the images well. I am thinking about working with transfers and printing photographic images onto fabric.
Some of the photo negatives were contained within a brown paper bag. I decided to scan the translucent bag into the computer with a negative inside it. I created a digital image of the negative within the bag. I decided that I’d like the image in the bag to be a positive photograph, and not just the negative image which is harder to distinguish. To achieve this, I scanned the empty paper bag and saved this image. I then scanned the photo negative, cropped and inverted it into a positive image. Then using photo editing software, I overlaid the two separate images, to create the illusion of the photograph in a paper bag. Since the negative is on film, the positive image is still partially transparent, so the paper bag shows through it. The idea of overlaying the photographic image with the paper bag became quite metaphorical, playing with the idea of fading memories and nostalgia. The brown paper softens the image and obscures it slightly. I repeated this with several other negatives to create a series of digital images. I have then printed these out to once again to form a physical copy.
“Well, I suppose nothing is meant to last forever. We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on, you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on.” – Vivian Maier
I have researched the photos of Vivian Maier and found it interesting that on a website about her photography and life, the images are not prints made by her, and instead are scans prepared from her negatives. They state:
‘What would Vivian have printed? How? These are valid concerns, the reason utmost attention has been given to learn the styles she favored in her work. It required meticulously studying the prints that Maier, herself, had printed, as well as the many, many notes given to labs with instructions on how to print and crop, what type of paper, what finish on the paper, etc.’
I have been interested in objects as a witness to the past. Passed through my family on my father’s side is a collection of ephemera. Within the bag of ephemera there are a collection of large format negatives. They are contained within paper sleeves and Kodak competition information on these suggest they are from the 1920s/ early 1930s. Some of the negatives are grouped together and categorised, whilst others are jumbled together. I have methodically gone through the negatives and scanned them into a computer to preserve and digitalise the image, and this also allows me to invert it and reveal the photographic image. After speaking to my father, he can recognise some of the people in the photographs as his grandmother (Lillian Florence, daughter of Staff Seargent George Elbby Smith), his grandfather, and his mother and uncle. A lot of the people in the photographs remain unknown, presumably friends and family of my Great Grandparents. These forgotten faces and lives intrigue me.
I find it fascinating the way only the negatives seem to remain, I do not have the original photos. I think it would be interesting to display the negatives together in a large group, or to print these as positive images and cover a wall with them. Each one is like a little window into a life once lived. These film negatives are a physical trace of a memory and a moment frozen in time.
I feel like film photography gives a true reflection of life. There is not the option to take 100 photos and choose the best one, deleting 99 others. They are not digitally altered, manipulated, colour corrected or photoshopped into a false sense of perfection. You can see blurred prints of babies moving, and multiple takes to try and get the most successful image, but the outtakes are also included in the final prints and negatives. Some of the film negatives are overexposed, or multiple images have been accidentally overlayed on the same piece of film. These errors are part of the nature of analogue photography, and I am interested in the way an image degrades. Each photograph has been carefully composed, processed and printed and consequently feels like it has greater value than a digital image stored on a phone today.
I am exploring the idea of positive vs negative, inversion and digital vs analogue to work with these photo negatives. I will also explore this idea further using printmaking.