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2018 Annual Conference

Philadelphia

March 01-04, 2018

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2018 SPE Annual Conference: Uncertain Times: Borders, Refuge, Community, Nationhood / Hosted by The University of the Arts

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Alexandra Williams

SPE Member since 2014
Member Chapter: South Central

Get Well Soon

For most people, looking at old family photographs is a treat, providing them with a recollection of countless memories. Photographs remind us of the many transitions our family members have experienced throughout their existences, whether they were a birth, death, marriage, trip, or other significant event in their lives. Some of these photographs appear formal and planned, designed to portray a specific appeal. Others appear spontaneous and reflect a certain truth, capturing a candid subject in its most natural form. Often they include only the times we want to remember, leaving the ones we want to forget in the spaces between the photographs.
Get Well Soon is a body of cyanotype prints created from scans of family photographs that were then translated to digital negatives. By using one of the oldest photographic processes known, I hope to reference the tradition of the family photograph as a souvenir--a reminder of our connection to the past. Utilizing white cotton twill as a substrate offers a delicate balance of durability and clarity. The fabric is then soaked in a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide and allowed to dry. Then each print is exposed to ultraviolet light until the proper exposure allows the blue tones to be impressed upon the vacant white squares. In addition, the entire process of taking the image from original print to digital image to digital negative to the final cyanotype echoes the multi-generational structure of the conventional domestic frame. Variations in size allude to the spark of excitement felt upon discovering an unorganized box of photos and the myriad of emotions one feels when searching through seemingly unrelated imagery presented in no apparent order.
The photographs I chose for this installation reflect a variety of typical familial situations--a similar assortment of which one would find in most boxes of family photos. I intend for the subjects to appear as strangers to the viewer, yet also familiar. This installation exists as a group of photographs to aesthetically imply the idea of unity, much as a box of photographs implies that the contents are related. In contrast, the distances between the photographs in the installation and the space that separate them from the wall indicate an element of isolation, much like the fact that each photograph in the box is independent of the collection. Additionally, the cool blue tones of the prints create a contradiction to the expected warmth usually associated with this type of photograph and allude to the physical or emotional distance that often exists between the subjects in family photographs, even when the expressions on the faces suggest otherwise. Family relationships can be complex, and with this work I hope to show that although most types of familiar photographs appear similar, the uniqueness of a family and its dynamic are most often written between the moments of time we record with a camera and that ultimately live in our boxes of family photographs.

Get Well Soon

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