Lately I’ve been working a lot on just refurbishing or altering old family photos, and transforming the characters in the photos into robots. I got into an interesting debate/discussion about the morality of using old photos as a medium on which to paint new characters and environments.
So I guess I’m basically the antichrist of old photos then. I use old photos as a canvas to create new characters and environments ( Profile Pic being one example ) . There’s a few factors which pertain as to why I don’t have a problem with doing so. For starters, before I paint on anything I take a 600dpi scan of it, so technically I’m actually making a copy which will last much longer than the photo ever could. Secondly I get these photos from junk shops where they stuffed into boxes alongside door hinges and broken toys. I am very interested in the history of objects ( of which you can read more about in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift ) and their transfer of “ownership” (which is actually more like a form of stewardship in my opinion ) . Etsy shops are full of re-purposed clothing other people have worn which I believe is a much more intimate relationship with someone else (to literally wear their clothes) as opposed to manipulating a piece of paper with their picture on it. The fetishization of objects also doesn’t extend only to photographs, having a clear ideology as it pertains to old objects is increasingly difficult to make. We have to reckon with exactly what is happening when we see an item at a thrift shop, a restaurant, or the garbage. We think to ourselves “auu, some kid was probably so happy to get that for Christmas, and now it’s in the trash” and other preconceived notions regarding objects. But the object itself is what people tend to give different meanings, and this varies greatly based upon our own personal experiences. For instance if you see a pickaxe in a restaurant that wants a rustic feel you have a different response than say, looking at somebody’s wedding dress.So, in my mind I’m not doing anything wrong by painting over old photos. I understand that some would disagree with this, and their reasoning for doing so. However in my mind I’ve scanned and archived literally thousands of photos. Many of which would be completely forgotten. My role as an artist and steward of these objects is to give them a new life and a new story and put them back into circulation.