These photographs are a selection of straight prints from nearly 350 negatives I found in a garbage bin in Madrid, Spain. Exposed between 1951 and 1956 (as written on the film boxes), they are images which were never meant to be seen the way I have printed them. From the writing on the film boxes and from the evidence of some of the negatives, these 9 x 12 cm glass plates were intermediaries to photographic portrait images that were meant to imitate painted portrait miniatures.
My intent in printing these negatives as they appear is to show how re-contextualization can alter the way images appear and are perceived. By printing these negatives straight, I am revealing both the artifice of the earlier process (in retouching) as well as some information that was incidental to the original print (other surrounding images, for example.) In the end, it is the surprising juxtapositions as well as the overall surreal quality of the retouched images that I see as compelling in their own right.
Miniature portrait artists were one of the few artisans who truly became extinct with the advent of photography. I find it interesting how portrait history, as well as photographic history are compacted in these photographs. Beyond that, each use of the face in these images is, in steps, further removed from the original portrait. My prints are the third generation of these subjects' portrayals. The second generation (copy prints onto glass negatives) have already re-contextualized the person's likeness. Particularly, in most of the women's portraits, their bodies have been replaced with another woman's who each wear a similar wrap (simulating the 19th century and earlier standard of miniatures as classical portraits.) It is this layering of history and meaning and reading of the pictures that interests me.
My photographic work of the past ten years has utilized found images in a variety of ways. Usually I have used a found photograph or negative in conjunction with an original image to present a new idea. In these photographs I believe that my methods and concepts have been portrayed without further enhancement.
(Click on image for larger version.)