Our Photo Editor Put On A Show We Can't See
VICE UK's photo editor Alex Sturrock has a show on at the moment at the Hannah Barry Gallery in Peckham. We got the overground train out there expecting to see some photos. We didn't.
VICE: Sooo, I just came all the way to Peckham to stare at a blank screen. What's that all about?
Alex Sturrock: It's great, right?
It's a white screen?
Well if imagery's what you wanted to see, maybe you should have made it down here before the photos had totally disappeared?
What? I just assumed the projector was broken.
Basically, the photos get lighter on a day-by-day basis until they disappear.
OK. I set out alone on a ten-day journey from a point chosen at random. I took pictures, and then sent the images back to a slideshow that was updated in real time (that's why the exhibition's called 'On Now'). The images are then played back in a loop, in the order in which they were taken, and over time they turn white. On the first day you have a blank screen, on the last day you have a blank screen. Guy Gormley curated the show, and he was constantly pushing me to pare it down as much as possible.
OK, and they disappear why again?
The idea is to give the images an energy and purpose. Once they have faded they will never be shown again. It's also a response to the sheer volume of pictures being created these days, and how desensitised we have become to imagery because of it. The way the images fade and corrupt – as they're jpegs, which don't like being re-saved over and over again – has similarities with how memory fades and corrupts. Also, on a photographic level, it's as if the images continue to expose until they are completely burnt out.
The structure of the show means that people always get something new from it. You're not looking at photos you could just as easily be looking at in a book or a magazine.
So what happened on your journey? Make any new friends?
Yeah, there were some identical twins who were about 60. They wore matching outfits, and had these matching M&S bags with the same things in them. They looked really cute, but when they started talking, nothing came out but brutal racism. Then there was this woman called Emma who was hand-rearing a seagull called Freddie on the roof of her seafood shack. He'd been kicked out of his nest and she had rescued him and fed him back to health with Crab Sticks. I also met a man who'd sold his house a week earlier, and had recently moved himself and his wife into a motorhome in a car park on the seafront. He was pretty happy about how cheap it was to live like that. He only had to pay for 24 hours parking each day. If you walked around the back of his van, you could see seals through the fence.
Was it weird working on something you couldn't see?
I had to be totally committed to it while at the same time being aware that it had a temporary life. Not being able to see my work when I knew that others could meant I had to just get on with it and not try to over think it, otherwise it would be like trying to put together a jigsaw blindfolded.
So what's next?
Nan Goldin has asked me to help her out with a festival she's curating later this year, which is exciting and also scary.
Nice, she's into your disappearing photos?
Yeah, she's really into the images going white and keeps asking for updates on how white they are. She has a pretty vivid imagination and I reckon she sees some whole other show as the images fade.
The show is still on, and Alex assures me that you can still see tiny bits of information and some traces of images and that the photos were life-changingly awesome, so go and check it out and mourn all that you have missed.
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