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Geraldo de Barros, part of the series Sobras (Remains), 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Visiting this exhibition of the Brazilian photographer Geraldo de Barros (1923-1998) at the Photographers’ Gallery in London I was intrigued by his revisiting of his own archive, in the last two years of his life, to create new works – sobras (remains). He has created collages from boxes of his own negatives, sometimes drawing or scratching on the negatives and reprinting them, or using contact prints or faded images. Some have black strips creating frames  reflecting the editing of images for publication for example.

Geraldo de Barros, Sobras, 1996-98 Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Geraldo de Barros, part of the series Sobras (Remains), 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Geraldo de Barros, part of the series Sobras (Remains), 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Geraldo de Barros, Untitled

Geraldo de Barros, part of the series Sobras (Remains), 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Geraldo de Barros, Untitled, Sao Paulo, 1949 Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Geraldo de Barros, Untitled, Sao Paulo, 1949 Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

This is an image from the original Fotoformas series exhibited in 1950, abstract images which he drew on for the Sobras work.

I found my own version reminiscent of this idea later that evening, walking across the pedestrian bridge from the South Bank Centre beside the railway to Charing Cross Station.

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I was also reminded of the writer W G Sebald again, and there are echoes here of my railway journey post too. The use or reuse of photographs in his ‘fiction’ creates a sense of reality, a non fiction. His narrators also talk of photography as Austerlitz does here

‘From the outset my main concern was with the shape and the self-contained nature of discrete things, the curve of banisters on a staircase, the moulding of a stone arch over a gateway, the tangled precision of the blades in a tussock of dried grass…. In my photographic work I was always especially entranced, said Austerlitz, by the moment when the shadows of reality, so to speak, emerge out of nothing on the exposed paper, as memories do in the middle of the night, darkening again if you try to cling to them, just like a photographic  print left in the developing bath too long.’

In an interview Sebald did about photography, with Christian Schulz in 1993 (reproduced in the book Searching For Sebald – Photography After W G Sebald, by Lise Patt) he says ‘The photograph is the true document par excellence. People let themselves be convinced by a photograph.’

He later talks about finding photos enclosed in old books bought secondhand, or from shoeboxes full of photos in antique shops saying ‘they lead such a nomadic existence and then are rescued by someone.’ An appeal emanates from them ‘a demand on the viewer to tell stories or to imagine what one could tell.’

Lise Patt talks of his ‘switch from found photographs to photographs of found places’ as he used his own photographs increasingly in his later books.  She says he used photography as visual research ‘to record phenomena, to capture but also collect sites, and as a tool to represent states of being – states as diverse as memory, coincidence, trauma, and even (in the end) hope.’

I had in fact gone to the Photographers’ Gallery to see the Perspectives on Collage exhibition featuring about eight photographers using collage in their work, in a variety of ways. Anna Parkina is a Russian artist using collage, sometimes reminiscent of Russian Constructivist 1920s work such as that by Rodchenko. It was certainly interesting but I got more excited by the Geraldo de Barros work.

© Anna Parkina, Untitled 9, 2011

© Anna Parkina, Untitled 9, 2011

I have always been fascinated by collage, and photomontage, and the possibilities of reusing and recreating found material and I remembered some landscape collages/photomontages I did a few years ago (apologies for more snow scenes). These were all using printed source material but I intend to do some using my own archive of photographs.

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