The third year photography students held a group symposium at the Herbert Art Gallery called Collective Vision, I not only wanted to go because I would possibly be doing something similar next year, but there were a few topics I wanted to watch to help me in this project.
Kellie Smart’s topic was Capturing the Aura, despite her topic not having much to do with the themes I’m exploring, I still found some of the photographers she had bought up interesting in relation to the aesthetics I’m hoping to achieve.
Smart was exploring nostalgia and one of the photographers she bought up was Sally Mann and her project ‘Southern Landscapes’. Mann is well known to experiment with alternative processes and this body of work is not exception; Mann explored the landscapes of Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia. By using a large format camera, with damaged lenses, she used the technique of wet collodion plates to create haunting landscape images that merge the past and present. These techniques create atmospheric images that really capture a ghostly past, they look aged like they are relics from the past and explore memories imbedded within a landscape. These sort of aesthetics to me, look like a memory, something from the past that has been damaged over time, similarly to a memory I suppose, although these images are not very old (late 1990’s) the unpredictable process of wet collodion plate creates this distorted deteriorating effects.
This images contain a lot of emotion, they feel personal especially when we learn the lengthy handcrafted process Mann went to produce these, something that couldn’t be replicated on digital.
Holly Constantine – ‘Remembrance – Landscape Photography and Memory’
This was obviously an important talk to listen to as Constantine explores the link between a Landscape and memory and the role of a ‘place’ in retrieving a forgotten memory.
A reverie memory is something associated with a pleasant past experience, but these memories can become fragmented, mixed up with other memories or faded which almost creates a completely different memory all together, a fantasy memory.
Constantine describes the role of a landscape as a memory trigger, by visiting landscapes that are connected to a past experience, seeing the landscape can retrieve the memory although it may not be in its original form. A mix of memory, imagination and other events can re-create what appears to be a memory into a whole different montage-like recollection.
On my first shoot with Catherine, this wasn’t entirely the case. On the way up to the location she could recall many memories and events that happened there from her childhood, her memories seemed to be quite clear and well formed, but when we reached the area that she used to sit in as a child, it was obvious that stronger memories were starting to connect with the sight in front of her. She managed to recall the differences between the past landscape and the present, like the sounds, the surrounding areas, trees that used to be there, it wasn’t so much that a particular memory had been uncovered but the memory of the general experience had become a lot stronger. This may be because she sees this landscape, from a distance, regularly as its behind her parents house, It was once we had gotten through the overgrowth to the tree that she started to form strong recollections, somewhere she hasn’t seen in at least 10 years.
This makes me question whether the regular sight of the landscape dulls our pathway to older memories of the place, newer memories placing the old ones, perhaps its the sight of the actual landscape that brings our fragmented memory crashing down, which triggers the stronger memories to the childhood?
Constantine explained that she believes a memory couldn’t be recollected in its full form, she described it like a jigsaw where parts start to come together as you’re experiencing the landscape.
This Symposium has given me a lot of ideas of how a memory is recollected, especially in regards to a landscape and its role as a ‘memory trigger’
The processes I have put my film through to cause manipulation in my work is to resemble the fragmentation of a memory, when I think about my memories I cannot see a defined edge I see cloudy edges if anything at all. Constantine’s theory of not being able to recollect the full memory all at once and it being mixed up and fragmented with other memories are all things I certainly agree with from experience, especially childhood memories.