And furthermore ...

One Man's Treasure encourages the use of anonymous photographs posted here to illustrate books and album covers.
If an image appeals to you, contact John Toohey at

Thursday, 28 May 2015


Discarded sequences
“Murderers will try to recall the sequence of events, they will remember exactly what they did just before and just after. But they can never remember the actual moment of killing. This is why they will always leave a clue.”
Peter Ackroyd

 Sequences of photos snipped from proof sheets, cut out of albums or otherwise cast off, leaving us with what may be mysteries, or not, or clues to a bigger story, or not. Murderers may always leave clues, but so do photographers. The problem is that they seldom tell us what to. Notice how these two images above move from a kind of order to a kind of chaos, suggesting some force outside the photographer’s control is at work.

 All of these were bought Turkey, which explains one or two details in the scenes. Other than for those however, they could have been taken anywhere. This zoo for example doesn’t look Turkish (except for the lion’s tiny cage). Sometimes we are able to read a very apparent narrative in a sequence, as with some below where people are playing for the camera, and then there are others like this one that tell a story like some French film from the mid-sixties; well there might be a plot and it could be logical, but should you care that much?

 So, is this five photos or just one? I say it is one because you can not consider any of the portraits here on its own without physically cutting it free from the others. 

 This one on the other hand is interesting because all snapshots taken at Giza are interesting, yet I think the middle photo stands up on its own and the two bookending it do not. Remove them and the surviving image is not diminished. 


Here the photos complement each other thanks to the way the child on the right looks at itself on the left. We can see how the photographer would have been pleased with either and printed the proof to compare them. The one on the right wins because of the balance between light and shadow.

Four photos – or do we mean two? – of the same three people. There’s a strong impression here that the three are actors, because they perform so professionally for the camera. The printing isn’t first rate but good enough to see how each frame has its own intriguing details, from the floating hat in one to the expression on the faces of the man and woman in another. 

It’s not rare to read that the source of many snapshots’ enigmatic quality is the absence of a surrounding context, without which we cannot understand the relationship between photographer and subject. Here’s a sequence that is all the more difficult to read because of its surrounding context. We get the three women sitting together, but what of the first photo in the sequence? The radio makes sense, and the book on the left is a medical encyclopaedia, which may help us understand the cut out naked woman on the right, but that is a mere assumption.

Back to a diptych from the same source as the first image, and a reminder of that brief era between the late 1960s and the mid 1970s when the combination of two images on the same panel was considered outré, or at least cool. Robert Frank is the best known exponent and he liked to include a cryptic text on one or both photos. What was good about this style, movement, genre or whatever word fits best, was the way it obliged us to look for and think about the connection. We ended up talking about it, and though the conversations could have been lifted from Annie Hall, their absence is noted these days. In this case we might note how the two women appear in both while the person in the centre is different. During the long and tedious 1990s-2000s the placement of two images together could only mean issues of identity or the self, but in the 1970s the photographer could shrug and say, ‘whatever you see is there’.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Add comments here