This is not my image- annoyingly I can’t remember whose it is, I think it might be by Harry Callahan..will have to look back at my research..I saved it because I liked the double exposure, the dream quality and the use of the tilted building as a surface for the two figures. This is a reference for a photograph that I need to find in the Nita archive I’m working with….
The text here comes from a letter to Nita, circa 1940- it’s a love/ fan letter sent to her at the stage door of the Victoria Palace Theatre. This is the second letter that this particular admirer and audience member sent to Nita requesting a photograph of her. I have never really seen a love letter like this before, it is quite cringe-worthy and superficial, written in the tropes of romantic pulp fiction. It is her image he seems to want and to be “in love with”, (as well as her physical beauty), which is also about a surface. That’s what I would like to try to show here…the infatuation and worship of the image or the surface. When I studied at Goldsmiths School of Art, the painters and teachers often talked about the ‘surface’ of a painting and how this altered and affected our reading of the work both emotionally and critically. And, only in analogue photography can you have a similar discussion, because arguably it is the physical chemical layering and its materiality or actuality- that penetrates and creates part of the surface of the image and therefore how we read it. The object (as a surface) quite clearly has a life span if it is not fixed, developed or stored correctly. Otherwise analogue photographic prints probably have a better chance of survival than any current digital format- for a variety if reasons, namely, the print is an original article, one that does not need to be ‘read’ by a machine or technology. Even my VHS cassettes in my attic are increasing expensive and difficult to transfer to current readable data. ‘Stanley’s’ on Brewer St transfer pretty much everything but it isn’t cheap and, it’s for professionals, meaning much of our domestic data will be forfeit in fifty years.
The image here is eroding. I found the print like this in the archive and digitally scanned it. It must have been a test print meant for the bin in the darkroom. Maybe Nita salvaged it and because it was not fixed or developed properly, it has gone red. The chemical process has reacted because the image was not ‘fixed’ into place and the chemistry and paper have caused reactions with the air over time, which in turn cause a reaction to the image and its surface. I love the scarlet, blotchy, deep erotic red of this..it’s not often a colour you see- the same as many colours within analogue- you just can’t replicate them digitally, which makes me think that much like the spoken word, we are all dumbing down or being dumbed down as our everyday vocabulary shrinks.