I have been continuing to work with Emily Macaulay of Stanley James Press on my book design. I had sent over a range of the experiments that I had been working on to give a sense of where I was heading with the ideas generation. This has proved to be really valuable as she is able to determine, which of these work on a practical and concept level for the book that I am aiming to produce.
Macaulay really liked the way that I have been using carbon copy paper (Fig: 1), noting: “it feels fragile. I like the marks it creates are different every time. I like that it feels official, like a receipt to prove something happened” (2021) This connects to ideas around trace and memory so this will be a feature for the dummy that we are going to produce. Macaulay has also provided a good amount of insight into some of the images that I will be considering including for the edit. Although she is not an editor, Macaulay made a really valid point about the inclusion, or more importantly, the non-inclusion of certain images as this will create the sense of mystery that I have bee working on with this project. This again links to the conversations that I was having with Karl Ohiri and Paul Sng who also suggested that I can control which parts of this story can be seen and that not everything should necessarily be included (Fig: 2).
Macaulay has taken quite a few of the ideas that I have been playing with. There are lot of links that are being made to the photo album, which is important to the experience of the work. I am aiming for the reader to have a similar experience to how I made my own discoveries of the archive. Screw-post binding was an area that has been suggested as this is how albums are bound. Bryan Schutmaat also uses them for his book ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’ (Fig: 3). They have the benefit of allowing for a modular approach to the content, meaning that it could easily have a range of different paper stocks and other mixing of elements within. There is also possibilities of having subtle differences between each book to connect to the unreliable narrator concept.
Macaulay added a really great idea that I have been spending time experimenting with. We discussed creating an object of memory and trace and I am keen to incorporate this into the physicality of the book. It was suggested by Macaulay that I could photocopy the same image over and over until it begins to degrade. I have made some experiments by using the found image of my grandmother (Fig: 4). I quite like the way that the image has degraded and considered ways that it could appear at multiple points throughout the book’s sequence, gradually being revealed as I discover more information. In preparation for a crit with Dinu Li, I placed them into a sequence of 8 images to show. The response was quite positive and unexpectedly, this was also because of the way that I placed them on the page. The grid layout communicates in the same way that I was considering placing them throughout. It was also suggested that I could use these at the end of the sequence and show them over and over in succession.
Another idea is to incorporate the way that a photograph fades onto the page over time and Macaulay suggested that this could be achieved by making a series of sun-bleached pages (Fig: 5). These are also quite like cyanotype and even photograms so there could be room to include these in some way. Sun-bleaching is also an interesting feature to include as it would naturally continue to age over time. I enjoy the idea that the book will continue to evolve, which is something that I discussed at length with Karl Ohiri (Fig: 2) who made reference to the way that narratives change and evolve after the photograph has been taken.
Macaulay also suggested that there could be something that sits within the pages of the book, which would be discovered/fall out as the book is being read. This could either be one of the quotes, or a negative. I think that the idea of adding a negative strip of images is an interesting concept so have been working on producing some. My story starts with the cut image (fig: 6) and is about finding the answer to the question why it has been cut. A logical image to ‘find’ might be the full image of the cut picture – the one that I myself found and confirmed that it was my grandmother cut from the photograph. This becomes one of the payoffs in the sequence that could work very well.
To do this, I have taken the original scans and then printed them out to then re-photograph them as if copying artwork. This will create a new negative from the image (Fig: 7).
As well as the negative of the full image of my grandmother, I was first considering adding some other arbitrary images from the archive that you would expect to see as part of a negative strip. However, There is an opportunity to work with what Barthes’ referred to as a ‘Micro sequence’ within the wider story (1977: 103). Barthes effectively breaks down the narrative into its constituent parts, point out the grammar and its syntax that provides the structure for the story. He raises some good points, even related to how I am planning to sequence my images: “for example in the portrait. Which readily juxtaposes data concerning civil status and traits of character” (pp. 97-98). Each image in my sequence is providing an important role for the understanding of the wider narrative. In the case of the quote from Barthes, this serves to introduce a character into the story and provide background information on them. The negative contained in the book loosely, serves as one of these ‘Micro Sequences,’ so it is important that the additional images that I select also serve the story.
For this, I went back to the film that the image of my grandmother was found. Analysing what I can see in the images, I can infer that this was at Christmas from the decorations within the setting. There are images also of winter fields that confirm this. Knowing what I know now about this story, provides some context for how my mum in particular must have been feeling at the time that the photograph was taken. This links well to the conversation I had with Ohiri. Only through the intervention of the photograph much later, the innocence of it drops and we can we begin to understand other narratives over what can be visually described by looking at the photograph.
With that in mind, I have taken images from the roll of film and re-sequenced them for this micro sequenced to provide some additional account to what may have been taking place at the time, or at least in the time between the photograph was taken and now:
Image 1: The Gran photograph (Fig: 8). I am intending to place the cut photograph early in the sequence of the book as this was the catalyst for the project. I later discovered the full negative when going through the bags of film that my parents keep. This discovery is important and part of the mystery of the narrative that I am presenting. This is the main image to be discovered on the negative strip. I refer to this in the story that I wrote, so it becomes a payoff after reading the story. An interesting detail has appeared after I scanned this image, I notice that there is a Boots film processing envelope on the side table.
Image 2: I made a crop of another image on the same film (Fig: 9). This shows details of the house they are sitting in. I am assuming this is the home of my paternal grandparents. There is tinsel around the frames to show that this is winter and Christmas time. The angle could denote an accidental photograph has been made, potentially due to some altercation, or off-hand comment that changed the mood. Conceivably the result of some kind of exchange.
Image 3: I made a blank frame by shooting with the lens cap on, and also variations of this with my hand partially obscuring the frame. This is to continue the feeling of the above image. One accidental frame could be excused, but adding another might subtly hint at this narrative I am constructing.
Image 4: One of the winter landscapes (Fig: 10). This image was on the same film strip and feels quite peaceful compared to the other images. I included this as a way of concluding the micro sequence. Potentially the need to stop on the journey home after the visit.
Upon reading the book, I am keen to give the audience some level of discovery as I had when carrying out the project. I also want to place the narrative throughout the book in a way that you can read and then re-read it to differing conclusions. The construction of the micro sequence creates another opportunity for this.
Additionally, within the archive there were a number of retro film envelopes, with the cliched message ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and ‘all the magic of your memories can be shared with your family and friends by sending them a photograph’ (Fig: 11). On the reverse of this is the message to ‘never cut the negative strips into individual frames’ (Fig: 12). As I have been arching the negatives that I found into sheets, these became redundant. However, instead of throwing them away, I have collected 11 so far, which can be used to contain the copy negative for the micro sequence. This adds an extra level to the narrative, through its language connection to memory making and also the way that commercial film processing used to handle film orders. In addition to this, the inclusion of these envelopes into my book dummies places a direct link to my archive into the object that I am producing. After discussions with Macaulay, she agrees and suggested that future versions could be made using a copied version of this object. This makes the initial dummies much more of a rarity.
Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation edition ed. London: Fontana.
Macaulay, E., 2021. Unreliable Narrator Ideas . [PDF]