Caldmore Community Gardens – starting points

The photograph as an object

We live in a time where digital photography is everywhere and all our own images are stored on mobile devices, computers and in 'the cloud'. Very rarely are our photos developed or printed out to become a physical object - a memory which we can hold in our hands and reflect on.

Printed photographs are both images and physical objects that exist in time and space and become an embodied part of our social and cultural experience. They have a physical presence in the world that carries the marks of its own history, of its chemical deterioration. Their materiality translates the abstract and representational ‘photography’ into photographs’ the are real objects. The possibility of thinking about photographs in this way in part rests on the elemental fact that they are things: they are made, used, kept, and stored for specific reasons. They can be transported, relocated, dispersed or damaged. Up until recently people regularly used to share family albums, wedding photos, university graduations etc to with others as a way of inviting them to know more about their lives and to celebrate important occasions.

As part of my Living Memory commission, I am currently running a series of photography workshops at Caldmore Community Gardens in Walsall (known locally as Karma Gardens) for a group of 10 participants. We have been learning about practical photography as well as discussing photographs as an object and their changing role in our lives. After going through some of the family albums in Walsall, I realised how emotional and therapeutic it can be for people to share their memories and stories with one another.

I am interested in the physicality of photographs that are three-dimensional objects in their own right that you can actually hold and feel it or can be passed on to others as a gift or piece of memory.

As the project develops I will be using a hand-made camera called a “kamra-e-faoree“ to take portraits of local people. The ‘kamra-e-faoree’ is a traditional method of capturing memories by veteran street photographers. The hand-made wooden camera acts as both the camera and darkroom, thus working as a ‘2 in 1’ machine. This enables capturing and instant printing of photographs and enables me to develop photographs with them and give a hard copy of the portrait to the individual at the time of creating the image.

This process of taking and developing a photograph together creates a space for exchange and conversation; and engages the local community in the process of making a real photograph. This allows more room for the subject of the portraits to connect slowly with their surroundings and experience the joy of sharing one’s thoughts and memories with each another.

Photo of Jyoti Patel taken in Walsall
Elsi Jones and Harry Jones during their holiday in Pontins. Photo from Warren Seymour's family album
Flyer for the series of workshops run by Farhad at Caldmore Community Garderns.

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Living Memory