The Time Before That
The Time Before That is the name of a book, partly hand-made in a small edition of ten.
The book was made mainly with the help and support and skill of artist Bada Song and was made to accompany my work in a show called For The Sake of the Image – curated by Suki chan at Jerwood space in 2010.
In this book I reprinted a set of photographs, taken c.1980 during a time shortly before I learned my father was terminally ill.
I had often thought of that particular time as one of relative innocence, before I knew how hard life and death could hurt and divert. As I have sometimes believed that photography (or my photography) can transmit psychological conditions I was interested in whether this set of poorly maintained, rather scratched and grubby (30 year-old) slides retained any real sense of who and how I was at that time.
I was also interested in the way that I was able to make no evaluative judgement or selection but to simply include the contents of a little box of slide unified and valued only for their moment of coming into being.
In making the book with these distressed images I was also drawn into a critique of established values about photography e.g. as clean, technically able, new, current etc.
I was also struck by the impersonal distance between me and these aging images, an impersonality that photography already introduces through its mechanical means but which was here exacerbated or reinforced by the passing of time. (After Marcel Duchamp of course, impersonality in art might be as sought-after as various modes of expressionism were prior to Duchamp.)
The book is completed with two short, written reflections on these matters, referring to the work of Craigie Horsfield and John Coplans, and begins with a quote from Jean Baudrillard: “When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.”
Only 10 copies were made, of which I have 2 remaining.
I now see this book as a model or precedent for a series of further books, and that books and booklets are, and always were, a very appropriate vehicle for my joint interests in writing and photography.