Discovered objects and images play a vital role in the work of Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sara Cwynar. Her practice blends collage, still life and portraits in photographic and filmic forms, incorporating material sourced on eBay, or at flea markets and the like. So when the opportunity arose to hold an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art last autumn, followed by a show at Milwaukee Art Museum this spring, it seemed a serendipitous moment to unearth works incorporating items from an archive close by.
“Some of the pictures that I’ve used as source material over the years came from an eBay seller who bought the archive of an old photo studio in Milwaukee,” she explains. “I think it was operational from the 1950s to the 1970s or so, and it closed down a long time ago. I like that they tie in to the location; I have repurposed some of the negatives from that for this show.”
From the bustling cities in the work of Eamonn Doyle and Guy Tillim, to Mark Power’s survey of decaying American landscapes, and a collaboration between Clémentine Schneidermann, Charlotte James, and a group of children in South Wales – this month’s issue is dedicated to the idea of the street as a site of theatre and historical spectacle.
The starting point for Sara Cwynar’s Flat Death is a term Roland Barthes uses in his seminal book, Camera Lucida, the Vancouver-born photographer says. “Buried in the latter part of the book, Barthes talks about ‘flat death’, and this idea that photography can bring back what has gone, and also remind you of what’s [no longer there],” says Cwynar, who lives and works in New York. “I started to think about this idea in relation to discarded objects and images, and [how I could] resurrect them. Collecting and reworking found images has always been part of my practice, but this gave me a new framework in which to work.” Cwynar, who studied graphic design before taking up photography, started the project last June. She uses images sourced from darkroom manuals, old encyclopedias, flea markets and the New York Public Library Picture Collection, which she manipulates “to create altered versions of the original image”. Her process involves scanning and enlarging the images to create prints on which she “rebuilds” the original images using collected objects and …