Afterimages : photographs as an external autobiographical memory system and a contemporary art practice
My proposition developed in this thesis is that photographs have changed the way the past is conceived and therefore the way the past is remembered. Just as the inventions of the telescope and microscope radically changed our understanding of distance and space on a macro and micro level, the invention of the photograph has radically altered our concepts of the past, memory and time. My starting point is a collection of photographs taken by my grandfather, Albert Edward Ingham, which is used both in my studio work and as a basis for my theoretical writing. My concerns as an artist are with the ways in which familiar photographs and their relation to ideas of personal memory can be incorporated in an art practice. The written element begins with a reflection into my motivation for using this collection and its usefulness to both my written and studio work. I include a short biography of my grandfather, leading me to consider biography and autobiography, and their relation through photography to autobiographical memory. This is followed by an in depth discussion on autobiographical memory and how it differs from other forms and processes of memory. With this I have placed a discussion of contemporary ideas on photographs. Finally I look closely at ‘external memory systems’ and how these relate to changes in the way autobiographical memory operates in relation to photographs. The emphasis of this thesis is to explore ways to elucidate my own practice as an artist and to offer a commentary on those issues which have been central to its development over the past several years. This has been, and continues to be, a process of making explicit and of clarifying those influences that have resulted in me pursuing autobiography as the major concern of my practice as an artist.