Tag Archives: photography

Note to Self: Preserve Personal Triumphs

Seeing a friend read an essay this spring made me think about personal archives in a new way. I had traveled to a gallery in an old industrial zone of Brooklyn to support my friend Megan, who writes about contemporary art and her life. When Megan got up, she said she wrote the essay she would be reading two years ago. Revisiting the piece the night before, it didn’t seem quite right. She decided to rewrite all the questions as declarative statements. I imagined her questions had been answered over time. Or, made way for different, newer questions. The edits seemed like signs of growth. Being in the audience that night as the writers and artists shared their completed works, I felt I was witnessing a small milestone.

The reading reminded me of one of my own milestones, a night the summer after my college graduation. I studied photography for two years as an undergrad, first black and white and then color. I had the idea to organize my first photography exhibition of my own work. My friend Dave kindly let me decorate his apartment on St. Mark’s Place with my work, and hold the exhibit there.

Matt and I lined Dave’s apartment with my photographs and some yellow tube lights. We blew up pink balloons and bought a box of cheap Trader Joe’s wine. My friends started to arrive, one by one, despite the sweltering heat. The photographs I selected were taken on day trips, date nights, or were just observations from my early twenties. The show was a milestone in itself of my growth as an artist and marked the end of my college life. It was also an excuse to celebrate the friends and supporters I had collected along the way.

When I decided to share the photographs on Library Manifesto, I found that I had done a disservice to my own archives. Many of the photographs taken the night of the show are missing! I’ve moved and purged multiple times since college and I’m afraid they might be gone forever. This is a public note to myself, and anyone reading, to remember to document personal milestones and triumphs with the same attention and thought we often give our failures. Jot them down, share with friends. Have pride in your successes (big and small) and preserve your personal history.

Here are a few photos of that night and some that were hanging on the walls:







Tagged , , , , , ,

Punk Papers

Mark Dirt Cover

Mark Morrisroe called himself dirt.

Mark Dirt, a new book, collects the writings, zines, and ephemera of Morrisroe (1959-1989), an artist known for his photographic experiments.

With Lynelle White, Morrisroe created Dirt Magazine, a zine of faux interviews and gossip with cut-out celebrity photographs. Morrisroe’s written stories and journals were stored with his ex boyfriend Ramsey McPhillips, who kept the archive for thirty years in his apartment. The papers have received little attention until now with the publication of Mark Dirt.

The writings are raw primary sources that appear as song lyrics or everyday rambling; one page from Dirt Magazine features a fanciful list of celebrities and what cigarettes they smoked. Medical records and letters from Mark’s friends, other artists and musicians, provide us with some insight into Mark’s life. The design of the book, with images bleeding off the page, is a nose dive into the mind of the artist with little guidance on how to interpret his retelling of the time period.

The book’s graphic designer James Brundage told LM, “it was a pretty interesting task – taking hundreds of TIFF files that weren’t arranged in any order and trying to piece together a narrative about his life.”

Morrisroe was part of Boston’s punk scene, made art, hustled, kept a diary of his adventures, and wrote poetry. He died from complications of HIV. Morrisroe’s art is in museums like the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles  .


Mark Dirt Inside Spread

Tagged , , , ,

The First Date Archive

Library Manifesto

Lots of young lovers keep mementos: movie stubs, tickets from amusement park rides, mixtapes or mix CDs, even receipts. I have collected them all and then some. In the case of my boyfriend, Matt, I am lucky to have something more unique; photographs documenting our first date.

For that momentous date in 2007, I proposed a walk around Brighton Beach, a boardwalk east of Coney Island in Brooklyn, to find something photogenic to capture for my black-and-white photography class. But Matt became my main focus and the scenery faded. Looking at the photos now, I find them romantic. You might be able to sense how shy I was, from the shots of Matt’s feet and the back of his head. I usually keep the photos stashed away but I recently scanned a few. I hope you like them!

Library Manifesto

Library Manifesto

Library Manifesto


Tagged , , ,

Unreliable Narrators

Jonathas de Andrade, Tropical Hangover, Journal Entries

In contemporary art, the archive is frequently explored as a tool to cope with and understand history. Here, I’ve picked two projects that explore identity through documentation: one from Margia Kramer in the ‘80s, one from Jonathas de Andrade in 2009. Each explores the idea of myth making, storytelling, and the deliberate construction of history with misinformation disguised as truth.

Broad Museum Jonathas de Andrade, Tropical Hangover

Artist Jonathas de Andrade used journals and photographs that are not originally connected and threads them together to create one narrative. I recently saw his work, Ressaca Tropical (Tropical Hangover), on view at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Ressaca is a word used to describe the moon’s influence of the tides and is slang for “Hangover” which brings to mind that familiar process of piecing events together after a wild night out. Found images and journals are presented on the wall as a timeline building a visual history of the city of Recife in northern Brazil. Much like our memories, there are gaps in the story and what Andrade pieces together is sometimes unreliable. Read more on this project here.

Kramer, Seberg, FBI

Activist artist Margia Kramer’s publication Essential Documents brings attention to FBI files that were part of a slandering mission undergone against actress Jean Seberg after the actress donated money to the Black Panther Party. Seberg is remembered as a fashion and film icon, but the less recounted part of her story is the harmful FBI investigation. Kramer’s work catalogs that trauma and tells of misinformation provided to the press by the FBI. Soon after Seberg’s death Kramer made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the release of those FBI files. FOIA requests are an important part of Kramer’s work and her way of of building a critical consciousness around government surveillance and handling of information. Read more on this project here.

Both artists are using primary source material (i.e. letters, photography, government documents) which we take to be trustworthy and unassailable, to show how the authority of the documents should be questioned. Not only are our memories flawed but items kept in an archive have the potential to be misconstrued too.

Images borrowed from top to bottom: The State of L3, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and the Franklin Furnace Archive.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Original Instagram

Vintage Photo Booth

Sparked by these vintage photo booth pictures (and the recent heat wave), I have been revisiting photo albums of my adolescence. I am nostalgic for my days counseling at a day camp in Brooklyn, playing the Ouija board with friends on the stoop, rainbow sherbert, mid-summer crushes, and outdoor rock concerts. Recent findings have shown nostalgia can actually be beneficial in treating depression and anxiety, so I don’t see the harm in letting myself succumb to these warm summer feelings. More than old movie stubs and party Polaroids, what could be more nostalgic than the photo booth image?

The vintage photo booth pool is a compilation of scans and uploads from over 200 myriad Flickr members. The uniqueness of the photo booth image comes from its signature size, border, and serial strip. Photo booth pictures follow the theory of the rule of thirds, a guide to artistic composition which cuts an image into a grid. Often there is high contrast (a feature those who use Instagram know and love) and like Polaroids, tiny skin imperfections are hidden. It is no wonder that love the old chemical photo booths and their tiny rewards.

Näkki Goranin, for The Telegraph, wrote a fascinating history of the photo booth starting from the first photo booth vending machine by Siberian immigrant Anatol Josephop. The history is remarkable with guest appearances by Fred Astaire and Andy Warhol.

Goranin’s article ends the story at modern day photo booths, which have, like everything else, gone digital. Sadly, the days of darkrooms in vending machines are dying, but the magic still lives in these old photographs and the lovely people who collect and digitize them.

Vintage Photo Booth

Vintage Photo Booth

Plus, take a look at this catalog of photo booths in movies and television…and one more history of the photo booth with more on its various manifestations in pop culture.

Images: top identified as Pamela Des Barres; middle from anyjazz65, bottom from Hula Seventy.

Tagged , , , ,

This Old House

Abandoned House Archive Richard Pilon

I came across the Abandoned House Archives on tumblr one day in 2010 and the images of residences in ruin have never left me. The photographs say it all, image after image of distressed wood, fallen bricks, and paint corrosion. The only information we’re given for each entry is it’s Flickr photo credit.

I am curious as to what compelled the photographers to capture these subjects and am even more fascinated by the young woman who compiled them together under the title of archive. The blog was created by Dani, then a teenager with a penchant for exploring her rural Ontario surroundings. Dani’s blog introduction sends a personal message to the decaying homes, “Your inhabitors may have left you, but i never will.”

Abandoned House Archive Kevin Bauman

Abandoned House Archive Kevin Bauman

Abandoned House Archive tklarts

Images borrowed from top to bottom: Richard Pilon, Kevin Bauman, and tklarts.

Tagged , ,

keeping things.

Stephanie Diamond ImagesSomewhere in the pile of stuff in my new apartment (just moved), I have a bright pink box, the word “archive” handwritten in blue on a piece of paper slid into the box’s plastic placeholder. The box’s contents are a mishmash of various stages of my life; notes passed in anthropology class, postcards from traveling friends, high school concert tickets, party invitations, photos of people I don’t know, love letters, and an assortment of scraps from past friendships. On occasion, I’m going to share on this blog some items I’ve saved in this archive box. I bet there are a lot of similar boxes out there, so I’ll also point out individuals doing more interesting things with their personal archives. Have you come across any ingenious uses of personal artifacts?

Stephanie Diamond ImagesKeeping archives not only gives people a sense of personal satisfaction, but can also be a creative inspiration. When my friend Erik introduced me to artist Stephanie Diamond’s Listings Project, I was struck by how her personal and family archive of over 200,000 photographs crept into her artistic work. The photo archive launched a number of creative projects including her It Would Look Like series. In one, Diamond asks young mothers living in the non-profit Project Row Houses in Houston questions about the types of photos they’d like to display in their homes and selected photographs from her archive base on the mother’s answers. The mothers in turn were given photos which closely matched their requests, giving new life to the photographs and gifting visual art to new families.

In Captive Audience she challenged participants to ask themselves, “If I were to go to prison, and I could only bring one photograph with me, it would look like…” She got over 100 responses and spent weeks rummaging in the archive to find photos that matched. When Diamond started incorporating the archive into projects it helped her see the photos in a new light. Diamond’s work encourages me to stop letting my personal archive sit around my apartment for periodic peaking and start experimenting!

Any ideas? How can our archives be the medium for something greater?

For more about Stephanie Diamond read this stellar profile by Jessica Breiman http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/stephanie-diamonds-social-practice/

Photos are borrowed from Stephanie’s website.

Tagged , , ,