Sharks in my bathroom

Darwell, John (2017) Sharks in my bathroom. In: Visualising the Home Conference, 13-14 July 2017, University of Cumbria, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This presentation will discuss a major new photographic project I have been working on for several years. Entitled ‘Sharks in my Bathroom’ it is based on a specific event from my childhood involving a particular book (Shadows in the Sea) of which I received two copies on the same morning, one from my Mother and one my Aunty Jean (Mother’s sister) who had independently seen the book on sale and both felt it was one for me. Even at the tender young age of eight years, I was acutely aware that this was a strange (and memorable) occurrence, happening as it did within a house that contained no books at all, and it precipitated a series of events that pointed both to the symbiotic connection between the two sisters and a lifetime's obsession for myself. The influence of this book has remained with me throughout my life and became the catalyst for a narrative-based, biographical photographic work, that encompasses memories, real and imagined events and curious, world changing co-incidences, through which a number of life experiences unfold, are illuminated and then disappear.

The images within the project are a mixture of newly produced work, from constructed images to still lives to family snapshots that are combined (interwoven) with found photographs (repetition) and newspaper clippings, that weave together to produce a body of work that is both autobiographical and imagined. However, as with the memory process itself, this work is scattered throughout with misreadings and possible misremembered moments, some of which are a deliberate attempt to mislead the viewer as they progress through the narrative. In essence the narrative is constructed, at times though not always, to allow the ambiguous readings to take place, for the viewer to imagine they are seeing what they are not. In some cases, these are tiny misalignments of memory and, at others deliberately misleading constructs, that may or may not be what they allude to be, steering the reader/viewer towards a specific conclusion. Within this imagined and remembered space specific details emphasise important aspects that underpin the narrative and create a dynamic tension that reflects back to my initial encounter with the book as an eight-year-old boy yearning for adventure and escape.

In this way, the narrative within the work becomes a fiction, that takes advantage of the confessional nature of the photographic images and text presented, to develop a series of potential mistruths underpinned by factual moments (and evidences that span a period of fifty plus years, travelling from 1960s Britain to in 2014 the beaches of Western Australia and onwards to present day where the story continues to evolve) that uses photography to construct a narrative that is both truthful to its intent, yet innately fictional in much of its output, to reflect a truth that may never have been. This mixture of the factual and fictional allows me to express a remembered truth in a manner that the purely representational could not. - John Darwell

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Graphics and Photography
Depositing User: John Darwell
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 11:31
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 19:23
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4217

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