Wendy suggested I look at David Moore
Moore’s Lisa and John revisits his 1980’s series Pictures from the Real World, which documented working class communities in the photographer’s home-town of Derby. The reworked project consists of prints, theatrical maquettes, audio-visual installation and a theatre performance. It reframes an old project through an archival intervention of a sort. Very fittingly, these works were exhibited earlier this year at Belfast Exposed, a photography gallery that holds an archive of 35mm negatives. Housed in the organisation’s archive, these thousands of negatives are regularly revisited and various edits have been created both within the archive as well as for external consumption.
Archives are socially and culturally constructed as explained by postmodern archive theory.[i] This also impacts the way in which they are used. Archives have the capacity to tell a different story and to be interrogated for counter-hegemonic purposes. While Pictures from the Real World portrayed David Moore’s selection of his photographic archive, Lisa and John, through the intervention the artist himself staged, offers us viewers an alternative edit of the documentary project. However, the intervention is not carried out by external researchers, a curator or historian, but by the very subjects of the photographs.
It could be said that Moore’s photographs have been returned to their owners, for Ariella Azoulay argues in her seminal book The Civil Contract of Photography that “every photograph of others bears the traces of meeting between the photographed person and the photographer.”[ii] These traces inherent in the photographic image contest the very idea that a photographic meaning could be fixed, but also that its ownership would be singular. Lisa and John never owned a physical copy of these photographs, yet they share the ownership with Moore who readdressed the co-ownership in this new iteration of the project by both literally and figuratively returning the photographs to the couple.
Similarly, Jorma Puranen, with his Imaginary Homecoming (1991), returned old photographs from an archive back to their origin. A group of photographs were taken of Sámi people in the 19th century by a French prince for anthropological purposes. Puranen encountered the portraits in the Musée de L’Homme, and wished to bring them back to the place they had been severed from. Mounting the portrays on acrylic boards and placing them in the landscape and rephotographing in this context, Puranen restaged a metaphoric return. The archival documents were incorporated in newly produced artwork, providing a new context for them.
In Lisa and John, however, the photographs remain untouched, their return to the origin and co-owners has not altered the images, rather, the archival intervention has radically altered the contextualisation. Through the gesture of returning the archive back to Lisa and John, David Moore invites them to collaborate on an art project, to become co-producers and active co-owners of the photographs.
In the theatre performance of ‘The Lisa and John Slideshow’ at The MAC Belfast it becomes apparent that for Lisa and John, the photographs are not a work of art, but long lost documents of their lives. Through the images, they seek to access their past. However, the archive challenges what Lisa and John wanted to remember by forcing them to remember. At one point John exclaims with surprise in his voice that he was a good father after all, contrary to his memories. They remember different things, they remember differently.
But so do photographs.
I really like David Moores take on the photograph and the use of it. I want my work to document the communities and the struggles they are going through. How the struggles are embodied within the land and structures surrounding me.
Installation of 'Lisa and John' by David Moore
Photo © David Copeland (2018)
https://www.photomonitor.co.uk/david-moore-lisa-and-john/ accessed ctober 2019