My father once told me a story about my grandmother, his mother. She would look at people and say, “see that person, you can see their life story in their face”. It’s a legacy, I suspect, of a generation which had been refugees, lived through two world wars, and ended up living in public housing in London’s East End. It’s a story that I sometimes think about when I take photographs.
I have no idea what stories the faces in this project tell. But I believe that faces do tell a story, whether real, imagined, or simply a narrative that we, as observers, project onto them. Faces we have known for a long time; those that pass us by, fleetingly; those that we remember; perhaps even those we imagine. Whatever, for this project, these photos tell a version of a story about the participants. The meanings are created by myself, as photographer; by the photographic technology; by the medium of display; and, of course, by the wonderful participants who agreed to be a part of this project.
The photographic narrative for this project is explored via two forms of photography. Firstly, the portraits were captured using a format no longer in production – a type of instant film photography created with a Polaroid Land Camera and peel apart film. It is a legacy from the days of analogue photography, when photographers would use instant film as a way to approximate the outcome of an image, before it was possible to get the instant feedback provided by digital photography.
Secondly, I asked the participants to hold the instant photograph of themselves for a second photograph, this time digital. I was interested in how the participants would respond as they held the instant printed image of themselves. What story could they read from this reflected image? How did they feel about the quality of the image? The inability to delete and take another photo?
There were a multitude of responses. Some grimaced at the imperfection of the instant reproduction, others playfully posed and created a dramatic response. Others were more fascinated by the 1960s camera and film technology.
This is an ongoing project. It will last until the film runs out.