These new works are preparatory pieces initially created during lockdown research towards a new long term social engagement with the small town of Grandpré in rural France. Inspired by seven German WWI negatives bought from eBay – and online research to identify the location – I began collecting postcards from the same place and period sent home by German soldiers. The project has a working title of La Vojo Returne (the Esperanto title for ‘The Road Back’, is taken from a first edition translation of the novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque, from my personal collection. This book is widely regarded as a study in post-war contemporary malaise.
These pieces have begun an ongoing dialogue around ‘a sense of place’ with Grandpré inhabitants, through the juxtaposition of the postcards’ liminal spaces and their infra-ordinary translated Sütterlin messages. At a time when we need to quietly reflect on what it is to be human, especially during these times of a collective post-pandemic and political introspection, I have begun to work on translating the cards with Leeds University and a specialist translator from Braunschweig, Germany, and conversing with residents in Grandpré to inform research and understanding of this landscape, how a memory of place and its experience informs a sense of self, in advance of making new photographic, audio and video work. A series of residencies in Grandpré are taking place with the support of the Mayor and a working sub-committee. A facebook group has been established with 260+ members – a collection of residents, exiles and interested parties – where similar postcard collections are shown, memories shared and stories discussed.
My ACE ‘Develop Your Creative Practice’ funding for 2023 is allowing me to establish a network of partners for engagement collaboration and output. This project is a testbed for new approaches and strategies, allowing me the opportunity to explore new visual output.
Images of engagement to date:
A few seleceted portraits from pop-up studio:
Postcard studies and translated messages:
Selected photographic works to date: