In discussing the work of Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye the scope of the blog is placed into context: consideration of a future project using archived photographic materials.
The blog identifies a number of sources where archive photographs may be found.
It considers how the project may be developed. Preconceived, where the material is sourced specifically for the project. Developed, where the material is collated and the project is developed from the material in hand.
It also discusses the idea that a documentary project may never be absolutely truthful, as it is more likely to be an abstract of the truth.
In all cases in order to develop a body of work the project needs to have purpose and this can achieved through the development of a story line: the narrative. The information collated (images and artefacts) provide the context.
I am currently reading about Zoe Leonard ( the artist) and Cheryl Dunye (the actress and film maker).
Dunye produced and acted in the film The Watermelon Woman, Stuart, (1997). The basis of the film was centred around an African American woman who was interested in a Hollywood star, Fae Richards: a fictional character.
The history of the fictional character is captured by a series of photographs that span her life time: as the character is fictional so are the photographs.
Leonard created the photographic history by selecting archival photographs that would best represent Richards; Anon (no date). These photographs form the prop for the film and were selected from various sources.
The originator of the concept was Dunye, Leonard provided the artistic support in collating the images used for the film: Bryan-Wilson (2013).
The motives behind Dunye’s facade was that, while there was information about African American women as lesbians and those working in Hollywood, there was no information of African American lesbian working in Hollywood. This gap formed the basis of the film.
I have been asked to consider the concepts, and think about developing a project, using archived photographs.
#1 Home source:
My own is limited, I would have to ask my Italian family for contributions, this could only be done face to face.
Once the information are collated and the photographs, artefacts, are examined, a sequenced and a theme may come from this exercise.
#2 Central Library:
The library will have a significant collection.
The collection will be large, working through the volume of work a theme would develop.
#3 Local resources:
During the shoot exploring your vision, I came across the owner of a car-tyres workshop. He advised me that the local funeral director had a number of photographs of the local area.
This I found particularly interesting, because I had the idea to recording the trades found in the local high street, and perhaps looking back in time to see what the shop had been in the past.
This would be an extension of exploring your vision.
#4 Friends and Family:
Friends and family are a huge resource of information and can form the bases of many projects.
Photographic books hold a vast selection of subjects; for example The Photo-book A History volume III.
# 6 Antique shops, Fairs Etc:
Antique shops and fairs may hold a wide selection of photographic prints, with a wide subject matter.
#7 News Papers
The news paper industry hold many photographs. A project would have to be developed in order to approach the paper to have access to the information. A valuable source when considering a social history project.
The development of the project is a more difficult product to pin down. I have found that in order to present a coherent photographic portfolio it is best to develop a purpose first. Once this is know then the project can be moulded around the subject.
I should note that Fredrick Friedlander and takes photographs of what he likes. Then identifies the project by collating photographs into category: American Monuments, American by Car, The Jazz People of New Orleans. This is an alternative approach.
Truth, Fiction, or Abstract?
A documentary project on the past will require that the work is truthful. That there must be an authentic connection between the past images and the documentary story. Otherwise, the purpose of the documentary will be lost. This is a link to the photographic document.
Water Melon Woman, and the subsequent photographs was fictional. The photographs came from the story line, and therefore, if archival photographs are to be used as fiction, a summary story would have to be developed. The purpose of the photograph would be to underpin the fictional story.
The above selection is a binary process: it is either truthful or the work is fictional. However, photography can never be absolutely truthful because of the level of complexity: example; interpreting a photograph is a subjective matter. Even the way photographs are presented, a choreographed process, will influence the discourse of the work.
This would suggest that any photograph will have elements of fiction, as the truth may be an abstract of reality.
Types of Projects:
It is likely that in that the archive project will be historical in nature, unless one uses historical images to project something about the future. A time bomb that has once been planted in the ground and has been dug up.
The categories for this type of project are endless, and it would be easy to reach out to the family album. In doing so, this would be reactionary, and an easy conclusion. What has been determined, through this course, is that when one defines the objectives and purpose, the project will have a natural flow.
In Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye the objective was the story line, and the archive photographers served the purpose to underpin this story. This follows that one needs a story to tell and the objective is to present this story line using archival materials.
To this end a list of story (head) lines.
- Family tree through the selection of people with; example, identical surnames, trades.
- Changes in fashion, school uniforms, police uniforms.
- Cars I/ We once had.
- Buildings and premisses: Traces and changes of the past; examples, how a shop/ garage/ pub. building premises has changed over the years, how a church many not have changed.
- How the local park has changed
- Social club (s), local stage groups.
- PESTLE. Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental, this is a business tool used for analysis, which may be used to set the begin to set the story line.
In all cases, for the project to have significance one has to determine the storyline, this is the narrative. The archive photographs – artefacts provide the context.
Anon (no date) Zoe Leonard & Cheryl Dunye — Archives and Creative Practice. Available at: http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/ (Accessed: 2 May 2018).
Bryan-Wilson, Jullia; Dunye, C. (2013) ‘Imaginary Archives: A Dialogue’, Art Journal; New York, 72(2), pp. 82–89.
Stuart, A. (1997) ‘Watermelon Woman’, The Sight and Sound, p. 63.