First thoughts for Part 2: The archive and the found image

Unlike previous modules I have been working across and planning for the parts ahead much more so on this one so far; – reading other people’s blogs and getting a sense of how they work ahead (and backward) was a good source for figuring out how I can maintain not only an individual exercise or assignment but seeing them as connected.

I had written about some of the thoughts ahead a little bit earlier when reflecting back at the office conversation (here).

For the next section, I am to work with an easily accessible archive to create a small photobook.

I would like to start this with some of the failed attempts to make something with the photos from my granddad’s Norway box. Back in autumn, I attempted some layering – the mask to mediate between  different places, people or times – and found that I couldn’t make this work: it seemed too forced, artificial (some of the attempts are in this post). And I also found it incredibly hard to work with this set of images.

What I discovered towards the end of this process was that many of the people are without feet: probably a simple function of viewpoint and focal length, my granddad taking these picture while also fully upright. And yet, going through the series of men and women in uniform and casual clothes, their absent feet intrigued me more and more.

Otto's Box and my commute

– so, the first exercise will be a typology of absent feet in the Norway photos, and possibly beyond.

There is another absence in the first part of the course: the exercise 1.3 that I didn’t do: it is to assemble a short series from easily accessible images about a recent event.

I had fairly quickly settled on wanting to do something about where I was at that time: in Jerusalem with its escalation of violent attacks and killings; I was particularly interested in the cases where people were mistaken to be attackers and attacked themselves, some killed. The methodology for these images was one that involved cutouts, some tracing paper and perhaps forms of ghosting. I wanted to add these into the series of ‘images taken while in a car’ that I had shot myself across Jerusalem and surroundings. And yet, with time passing, I realised that I was incapable of going to my saved news images and my own ones to proceed. It seemed too hard, too violent; so I didn’t do that exercise.

– I also realise that while this enquiry into absence has been important, my not-conducting the exercise also left out a form of image that could have filtered into the assignment: in the assignment I filled in, added, filled in, rescaled, doubled. But never absented anything from it.

So, for part 2 I want to look at

  • absent feet: where is the ground to stand on?
  • Burgin and Sekula on the archive and the order of the archive, notably: what is being left out, disappeared (and what does it take to notice?);
  • reconnect this to my previous research and work on family albums: they are also great exercises in omission;
  • how does completeness function in eliding that what is missing.



Public/ private in consumption

I was at this most fascinating performance on Friday where one of the performers would tell us that we will never see part of the work that he is going to do, because it will be private, not meant for consumption; and situating it socially seemed to be solely possible as consumption.

He would tell us that we will never see that part of it.
And he would tell us again, that we will not see it, be part of it, or know it.
Again, he would tell us thus.


Gesa Helms
Gesa Helms it was curious, wasn’t it, John? I know how this functions in theory: of how the sensation around that ‘edge’ between public/private creates so much interest, energy and double signals that it draws almost all the attention… it was exciting to witness… it is something that I have been trying to get my head and body around for some of the House work: what can be meaningfully done with secrets in relationship with others… I find it curious as it also creates all these expectations… am going to write it up for House and am also thinking of contacting him (but not sure if that mannerism has put me off the latter :S)

Gesa Helms
Gesa Helms or whether what I call mannerism was also just a function of negotiating that boundary…

subject: images taken in your office

To: L; a
Cc: H
images taken in your office


hi A and L,
hi H

— I realised when talking to A earlier this week that I haven’t done something in order to clarify the use of the work that I have been doing around my current project (in an office at night) to do with overwork, desire and (not)work. for this project, I met with H in your shared office one evening and we talked about the themes and also used a methodology of jointly taken photos. the images were taken on an analogue camera and my phone, H has since seen the phone images but not, in detail, the analogue ones (as I don’t have a full contact sheet of them yet) – so in this sense, H: the below applies also to you for the images you haven’t seen yet.

The project (like other current work of mine) is pursuing the edge of public/private, and while I realise that that is a current concern of mine I also know that it involves transgressions (feared or actual), most notably if I work with lens-based media and its rich and cumbersome traditions of voyeurism and exhibitionism. I like to attend to and work with this transgressive discomfort in whatever way possible (and some of that attention will be clumsy, no doubt; as well as possibly an imposition on others). I feel that I negotiated that process well with H and the material and forms we employed; I was also conscious of being in someone else’s office as a not quite private, not quite public space; that registered with how and what photos I took (and notably didn’t take), and it also was in one way or another done with/by H (in her shared office); there are a number of images in the full set that blur out/ spill over into your spaces/ presence, and I wanted to ask you to let me know if there are any images in this set you don’t want me using in future.

The images that require for me a confirmation that you are okay with them existing and being used are most notably:
– row 5/ img 4: showing the names on your office door — I will obscure these/ overlay them in any case; I would love to be able to use that img with such an overlay.
– any image that shows A;
– any image that shows A’s desk and shelf space; with the latter, I would really like to use the images that show the duvet bin bag as well as row5/ img 3 which includes A’s hands.

And then there will be others in the set that don’t register as sensitive to me but may be to you.

As for the use of these images: at the moment it sits fairly contained within an educational context, as part of my current undergrad degree course. Some of the images I have made from these are here: [it’s one of several posts but has links to all others].

At the same time, I have the sense that this project could become fairly long and expanded… I am quite excited by the issues it raises and how it seems to be able to bring together some of my academic interests and visual strategies and theories… so it could potentially involve various more interviews in other offices at night, and it thus may in future acquire different public forms.

I would like to ask you to have a look at the image which shows all images of that shoot and to let me know if you want any of these removed, restricted, obscured or similar: and please do let me know if that is the case. And if the image quality is too poor, I can also send on digital files for individual images.

I appreciate that you will have lots of other things to do at this time of year; so, I would like to suggest that if I don’t hear back from you until 10 January 2016, that the images (plus the above proposed anonymisation of row5/img4) are okayed for usage from your side.

Link to dropbox photo file:

Thanks so much and all the best,

Assignment 1: In an office at night – Digital montage (WIP)



These are the two digital files that I have been working on.

– I will write up more of the conceptual thoughts in the final assignment submission: in the main, I was trying to get to some sense of

a) the overwhelming, spilling out and over of that space and the work (as in knowledge production) that happens within this space and within the conversation between my colleague and myself.

b) a sense of the conversation and the relational work between author – subject – viewer: to include both of the participants in the conversation in the image; to reposition us within the frame and possibly also the viewer (though maybe that is open to question).





In an office at night: digital 1

Entirely made up of Minox images (i.e. images that I took just by myself); processed and then scanned with a Hasselblad scanner; processing of digital file, the layering; the layering is fairly seamless and discrete, i.e. that the image is constructed isn’t immediately obvious.

I love the tonality of this image and am surprised how much it references Hopper’s Office at Night.


In an office at night: digital 2

Digital 1 does not contain any of the images that we took jointly on the iphone, so it actually does not contain the process that I had identified as key; this was mainly what led me to produce the second image; the interest is similar: to show relationality, the layering of author – subject – viewer within the picture plane; even more so than in digital 1 I altered scale; the iphone jpgs are much flatter in hue than the Minox scans, I altered the background to reference again Hopper’s palette (changing gamma in exposure); relatively late I chose to add another layer of outside to it by rephotographing the screen with my hand in the foreground.

Both images are non-standard ratios; the Minox one is expanded on the horizontal, digital 2 is shortened… I find that significant… just need to spell out the why for it.

I have shown these images (and the manual montages) in two settings and had very useful feedback for them; there are a few minor changes to make for both of them and then they are good to go.

— There is much in this series and project for me, and this first assignment has covered some useful ground as to the reasons for montaging and how to go about it; but also: rescaling, repositing/ rephotographing and thus starting to both fold context into the picture plane and let the picture plane bleed out into the context. In this sense, I can see this final images of this assignment changing a fair bit between now and assessment time.