Found Photographs and a Homage to Chris Marker

Six years ago I bought D a box of photographs on ebay. It wasn’t a very good time in our life – lots of things were turning to shit and stayed that way for a long time. However, D got really into found photographs and so I bought him a job lot on ebay to cheer him up. I remember it arriving – a blue archive folder with the word “Clinical” written on the side. We tipped the hundreds of photographs onto the floor of our living room in Coventry and started to go through them.

Found photographs come imbued with a sense of nostalgia and loss, you can’t help but wonder who the people in the photographs are, feel the loss of a life lived and been and gone. As we went through them we realised that many of the photographs were from the same family, in Germany, during the Nazi period, the war, and afterwards. The same man appeared again and again – he is so distinctive, blonde hair with black-rimmed glasses and an ironic smile. We found so many photos of him that a story started to emerge from the photographs. There was a story to be told, even if it wasn’t the story of these actual people.

D decided to make a film with the photographs. It was to be a photo-roman, like Chris Marker’s La Jetéebut unlike Marker’s film the photographs aren’t staged. He worked on the final project in collaboration with Ben Rowley. I worked on the script (will save that post for another time). Here it is (best watched in a dark room on a big screen with the volume up loud:

3 Comments

  1. I’ve never understood why people through the history of their entire family into the trash. Perhaps it is because no one knows who these people are any more? Perhaps they have no real interest in the past, or are ashamed of it. So many of these older photographs – I have friends who collect almost obsessively! – are of places which no longer exist, most are of people who have long since gone but who, in some way, are all connected to us, even if just by a distant thread.

    Reply

    1. I find it sad too. There’s something very melancholic going through old photographs – someone has actively thrown them away.

      What’s also sad, though, is that in 10 or 20 years we’ll feel the impact of digital photography and these photographs won’t show up at flea markets and boot sales anymore.

      Reply

  2. Found this and been deeply moved. I appreciate your loving respect for this pitures, the old Lady and her story.

    In my eyes you found a very sensible balance to honor Gustav, Rebekka – and your audience.

    Thank you for this inspiring piece of work.

    I did a keynote presentation for my mum’s 80 birthday with old photos from her life. She loved it :-)

    Wished I had seen your work before, I would have been much braver in letting this old pics be as they are (and not retouching them so much).

    Reply

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