Photographs provide us with a space to present ourselves - they are the gap between who we are, and the way we want to be seen. Writing in Performance: A Critical Introduction, Marvin Carlson states that “...all human activity could potentially be considered as ‘performance’.” Actions take place in a ‘front’, like a stage set, providing scenery and stage props upon which the human action can be played out.
Working with found photographs, I am interested in the ideological space within which these women perform their identities, which are then reaffirmed through the gaze of the spectator. Erving Goffman, writing in The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life, refers to this collaboration as a ‘veneer of consensus’ which relies on both the photographer and the viewer successfully playing their part in the ‘performance’.
How do we perform in photographs?
What stories are we creating?
The face of the woman is cut out so that visitors to the gallery can place their own face within the picture and become part of the scene.
Unlike modern ‘selfies’, they will need to rely on someone else to take a photograph, forcing a collaboration, and drawing attention to the role we each play in the illusion.
The work offers a space to consider the continuing ways we document our lives, and the personal narratives we aim to construct.
Study for Fold
C-type photographic print on 5mm Kapaboard, wood
Work in progress
Exploring chalk drawings, symbolism, disappearance. The woman.
Study for Silverfish
Exploring ideas of deleted vicinities, collective memory, and negative space.
Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, E. H. Gombrich, 2002
Making People Disappear: Amazing Chronicle of Photographic Deception, Pergamon-Brassey's Intelligence & National Security Library, 1989
The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust, Marianne Hirsch, 2012
Flight Found photographs, monotypes Installation size 85 x 60 cm 2017
Still Life is the photographic story of my car. Designed to be seen as part of an installation, viewers are invited to sit on the back seat, as they watch a short film about my 50 year-old MG Magnette. Using photographs donated by some of the previous owners, with a narrative combining fact and fiction, the work explores ideas of collective memory, the family archive, and ideology.
"...A 1964 MG Magnette.
I bought it 12 years ago from a friend of a friend, an ex-stuntman, who claimed that you can get three 6-foot men in the boot. (I don't know if that's true. I didn't like to push him on it).
A big red folder came with the car.
It's got all the receipts, tax discs and log books from its 50 years.
This work is a more intimate archive, about the people who have owned the car..."
The work was shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries, nominated for the inaugral Magnum/PhotoLondon Graduate Photography award, and was selected by Dewi Lewis for Source Magazine's Graduate Photographic Review:
"In 'Still Life' Melissa Campbell explores the history of her 50 year-old car, through images that examine collective memory and the family archive. The personal history of a mechanical object such as this offers up intriguing possibilities, not least the way in which the ten previous owners can, in effect, be considered as an extended family. For many people their car is almost a family member and its relationship to personal experience and family history is inevitably a powerful force. I've seen many projects that look at the family home, for example, but never the family car, and so I found my imagination captured immediately." (Dewi Lewis, 2014)
Film, 8 mins 10
Installation view from East Sussex Open, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, UK
Owner number 2
Owner number 3
Owner number 10
A Life Backwards
A Life Backwards is a set of my father's photographs. I began to wonder how many times we had looked at them over the years; for reassurance and comfort, or to be transported there. I dusted them with fingerprint powder to reveal some visual proof of those moments.
The fingerprints draw our eye from within the image, to the surface; from the past to the present; from subject to object.
Family photographs, sizes variable, fingerprint powder, 2011