I’ve been collecting photographs to use as research for some new work I’m making – work about photographs of women posing nude; I want to explore their gaze, the way they present themselves, who they are posing for, and who is behind the lens.
I have spent hours searching for the ‘right’ photographs, and I loved these two images on sight: they have the perfect composition, the right energy, a raw sexiness that doesn’t feel clumsy, and the women have a certain detachment, etc. Just what I wanted. I bought them. Click. They would be mine…
I buy lots of photographs from Ebay, they mostly come from America. (why is that?) They arrive in a stiff cardboard envelope adorned with a row of bright, exotic looking stamps, (which serves to remind me of my as-yet unfulfilled pen-pal fantasy) and contain within them these objects of delight.
Imagine my disappointment then, when I opened these two envelopes and pulled out not the original photographs, but reproductions.
Still great images, but not ‘mine’.
I realised then that actually it’s not about their gaze, or their poses. It’s not about self-presentation and performativity, or investigating themes of identity and evidence. Nor am I really interested in ideas about the archive or social history. And I am not driven by Pierre Bourdieu’s views on the middle classes representing themselves through photography, or Erving Goffman talking about the roles we perform in society, as fascinating as both texts are.
What I want are your secrets.
Your personal private photographs.
I was thrilled at the idea of possessing these two photographs. These moments. These objects. Now that I know there are countless other copies out there in the world, they lose all meaning to me.
Give me your secrets.