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Friday, 20 March 2015

I could have been Argentinian!

“Before the first war, he worked in Argentina and I think he had quite a good time there but later on when they were married he was offered a job in Buenos Aires and could have gone back and had a good life, but Ama (my grandmother) was too dependent on my mother.”

“My mother was the youngest and they really got on well or my grandmother being a bit controlling, my mother did as she was told. So my grandmother would have found that far too difficult. And my mother probably would not really have settled in too well. I don’t know, but I don’t think she would have wanted to go either.”

I went on Instagram the other week, mainly because I wasn't on Instagram and why not, but also to put a  shape to my German family album pictures and make a coherent story  (which goes from power lines, Siemens and Argentina to a brothel in Nice, a head on a train track and a feature in the Deutsche Algemeine Zeitung on the in-etiquette of Nazi salutes. There's a skein of domesic sadness running through there, White Ribbon meets the Tin Drum but without the boxing gloves or the screaming. But without the story, the pictures become generic. That's interesting in its own right and the generic is always going to be there (it's 1930s Germany!), but how can you take them in a new direction. Should you take them in a new direction. 

It's difficult because, even though I know the stories, as soon as you begin putting words next to the pictures, things start shifting and get a life of their own. And the blurring between different versions of the same story, and the gaps in the stories and the motivations behind the stories are also fascinating in their own right. But how do you fill those gaps, and what does that do to the overall picture. How creative can you be with your story, how much of a life will the pictures get as a result and what kind of a life is the question.

The other reason to go on Instagram is to give myself some kind of deadline. I'm speaking at the Vienna Photobook Festival ( where speakers include William Klein, Olivia Arthur, Michael Mack, Nico Degiorgis and Gerry Badger)  and the theme of my talk is, provisionally The Photobook, Text and Narrative. How exactly do you tell a story with words, how do they connect with pictures, when does the whole add up to more than the part and what are the photobooks that hit that text/image sweet spot. And how do I make everything a bit less wordier than it is now. 

And here's the Photobook Bristol Festival progamme. More on this later.

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