(Un)certain ghosts: rephotography and historical images

Krell, Mary (Un)certain ghosts: rephotography and historical images. In: Hands on History. Routledge. (Accepted)

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Abstract

Rephotography (sometimes also called, “repeat photography” in the field of anthropology or referred to as, “then & now images” in contemporary press) is a practice which offers novel opportunities for engagement with archival materials for both the creator and the recipient.

Rephotographic practice is, in many ways, a doubly hands-on practice. It is, at the point of creation, an act of physically re-enacting the moment of taking an historical picture. The photographer must adopt nearly the same physical stance as the original photographer in an attempt to match the original vantage point as closely as possible. In producing Traces of Lee Miller: Echoes from St Malo, we began to see how the stance of the photographer shifted as she experienced war-torn France. Our photographers were forced to adopt increasingly low, even protective stances with their cameras.

At the point of reception, rephotographic practice takes on an additional hands-on aspect. When interacting with rephotographic images, viewers are able to (often with the use of a mouse or even just the waving of a hand) fade between past and present. This physical action implicates the user in the image and creates a unique experience for her/him.

Rephotographic practice creates the conditions for a kind of temporal drift that often leads users to express feelings of nostalgia. They ask questions about what happened to the children playing on the tanks in the middle of a road within a picture from WWII. They ask why once bustling streets now seem empty.

In interacting with the images, it is common to see people slowly exploring what has changed in each. After interacting with them, people often speak of their own experience thinking about or considering the changes they have seen in their own lives and world in the time roughly represented by the images.

This chapter builds upon my previous work such as, Traces of Lee Miller…, a rephotographic project that focused on her photos of and experience in St Malo during WWII. The act of rephotographing her images often revealed details about how the world, and specifically the built environment, changed. Streets that were once filled with children playing are now empty. Buildings appear and disappear. It also engages with Ted Englemann’s 2007 piece in The Journal of American History where he wrote about the restorative practice of rephotographing images from his own time in the Vietnam War. Finally, it does not focus solely on rephotography as a hands-on way of engaging with war photography but as a means of interacting with a wide range of images from history.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: rephotography, digital media, remediation, Lee Miller, interactive design
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Research Centres and Groups: Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Research Group
Business and Finance Research Group
Centre for Advanced International Theory
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N5300 History > N6350 Modern art > N6447 19th and 20th centuries
Depositing User: Mary Krell
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2018 10:05
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2018 10:05
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/73274
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