Photographs from the tin box
20th century is recorded, thanks to photography. Piles of photos are stored in family’s tin boxes, creating a kind of an archive. I believe that act of storing the image has many consequences on the way we understand ourselves and our life.
After the Second World War photography became a medium of the masses and almost everyone participated, if one was not taking pictures, he was at least posing for one. Since a photograph is a physical object, it means that it has its lifetime. A photograph fades away, if it’s not stored properly. It needs to be stored, but how and in what way?
When I was searching trough our family’s tin box archive, I immediately thought of Alan Sekula, who in 1986 claimed that when we add image in archive it looses it’s original meaning:
“In an archive, the possibility of meaning is “liberated” from the actual complexity and richness of use, a loss of context.In archive each photograph shares the lack of context with another.”
In case of family album that is only partially true, if photos are dated and titled. Every family has an album or archive, and the creation of one is a lifelong challenge. Adding your own photo to the album is an event. You are changing history with your contribution. Actually tour contribution is a statement, how things will never ever be the same again. Addition of photo is itself a statement of change that has been recorded. I claim that because changes were hard to track 19th century photography started annual group shootings, often seen in family albums.
In our tin box most of photographs are dateless, untitled and we don’t know who was the photographer. I only know that some images are a courtesy of Foto Erjavec, former famous photography studio, one of the first commercial studios in Slovenia.
For that reason we cannot be sure where the photos were taken and our archive is much like Sekula claimed. Only context of photos in archive is archival value itself.
I understand our family archive as a time line of events that happened between photographs, where the meaning of photos actually aren’t the most important: the context of a photo derives from the time before it was made. A family photographer cannot simply capture events before they happened. You as a family photographer are photographing a moment of a moment that you have been experiencing before you started shooting. Does family photographer’s mind function other way around, as visions, or experience, of what will happen in the future?
I did a little research of archive and context of archival value. As one of the youngest members of our family I chose several photos that I am not sure what or who is represented. I found out that so many images are a technical failure and as such they represent an impression, even if photographer didn’t show us that. I scanned photos as triptychs, without context, just on the base of visual compliance. Results are stunning.
All images of unknown photographers edited by Aljaž Celarc
Text by Aljaž Celarc
Edited by Eva Pavlič Seifert