BATHROOM “selfies” snapped in privacy while getting ready for a night out are quite common, says artist and photographer Emily Hornum.
By day the Edith Cowan University student works in a photo lab and she’s intrigued by the changes the digital era has wrought on photography: the way images are shared, concepts of private and public photos, and the sheer number of bathroom “selfies” she is asked to process.
“Hundreds of them,” she says. “Are they going to put them in an album?” she wonders.
Photography in the digital age has become more about communicating via social networks than archiving family history, and the 28-year-old fears the family album is already a relic, replaced by the permanent transience of Facebook, Instragram and Pinterest (the images exist forever in cyberspace but may be largely inaccessible years down the track as a cogent collection of images).
“Snapchat is interesting,” she notes, “taking a photo and deleting it almost immediately–it reinforces elements of the temporary nature in our relationship with images.”
The advent of phone cameras has seen a vast proliferation of happy snaps but they are as easily “trashed”, unlike the treasured printed photograph of the past. Hornum’s exhibition Object Data Memory explores how new media alters traditional notions of family archiving.
“Technology is always going to move…this is looking at how we are going to pass family narratives on.”
Huge installations fuse boundaries between analogue and digital technologies, old and new ways of using photographs, “and question the influence this has on the performance of memory”.
A massive sculpture comprising more than 3000 35mm slides, recreated from Hornum’s family albums, uses mirrors to express an “interplay with illusion and repetition,” she says.
Family videos were also plundered for the exhibition, including an interview with her grandmother as alzheimer’s threatened loss of family stories, and videos taken by her father, who’d died when Hornum was quite young.
“Dad was behind the camera, but you can hear him [giving directions]… there are raw, fragmented elements.”
Object Data Memory is on at not-for-profit gallery Free Range, 339 Wellington Street Perth, May 15–26, Tues–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 12–5pm.
by JENNY D’ANGER