Photography Arts | Field Notes |

December 9, 2019

Conceptual Art Practice | Materials | Making the collages


Reaching the point where I could start collaging the centrepieces could only happen once the base boards were made and upholstered and the printed fragments for each image were made and dried. In previous posts I recorded the process of designing and then building the base boards up to the fully upholstered stage.

Thinking through the collage

The collage process started in the darkroom under the enlarger. As I laid out fragments of my materials for exposure I started to arrange them and think about their relationships. It was in the darkroom that I started cutting the pieces into smaller fragments, so decisions were being made even at this early stage.

Developing and drying the pieces after exposure mixed them up again, and time passed between the darkroom sessions and making the boards. But when I eventually had an upholstered board and a box of printed materials in front of me I didn't think of that as the start of the collage process but as a mid point.

Considering torn edges during building

Considering placement during building

An upholstered base board ready for collage

Photographing the bases

I wanted to photograph the base boards before I started the collages. I thought that the digital images may prove useful for experimentation or developing the project. Shooting them upside down with a large window behind gave a subtle shadow at the bottom of the image.

Making digital images of the base boards


Placing the pieces onto the boards before fixing helped me work out how they all fitted together. I experimented at this stage also, in the example below with yellow silk string and strips of green acetate. It was here that I decided to use predominantly torn edges on the pieces rather than mixing the torn with the cut edged pieces.

Rough placement

Boxes of printed samples to sort through

Fixing the collage fragments

Visually, I had the idea that I wanted the centrepieces to be bound up with strings. This was from a conceptual point of view though and I hadn't thought about it very seriously as practical way of fastening the fragments to the base. I'd thought I would use glue to collage the pieces.

It was only when I had upholstered the bases and started to place the collage that it seemed unnecessarily destructive to use glue. Might there be a better way to fix the pieces? The string worked quite well, but I wanted to be able to make aesthetic decisions on string placement and not be constrained by having to tie each fragment down regardless of how much string this would cause to cover the image.

Pins emerged as a possible fixing method, given that the base boards were upholstered with a wadding layer under the cotton. I found that white tipped short map pins worked well to fix the pieces more precisely than the various strings and raffia. I also tried black tipped pins but they were too eye-catching.

As detailed in a previous post I had made a wire frame on the back of each board to loop the string around, this was helpful in keeping the string secure but also for keeping the collage process flowing. I wanted a way to not have to stop and staple or screw down the strings as I worked and the wire frame helped enable this.

Two kinds of string, raffia and pins hold the pieces in place

Each collage emerged with its own unique character

Conclusions and next steps

The glue free approach means I can easily reposition or remove pieces or even prepare more materials to add at a later date. Overall I thought the collage and string worked well artistically as well as from a practical and materials standpoint. I liked being able to position the translucent materials in layers, like recollections being obscured or overwritten.

I felt the process itself of building these visual representations for the fragmented, imperfect nature of memory was in some sense analogous to the psychophysiological process we trigger each time we access a deep memory of a significant place—I felt a strong correlation between the process and the message.

The next step is to shoot digital images of the finished centrepieces and then bring them back into the original 5 shot digital panoramas that I made the negatives from from which I made the collage pieces.

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