I used to collect Cabinet Cards, photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century that could be found at any flea market. It boggled my mind that these had been discarded or lost from the families they belonged to and were so cheap (usually a few bucks) for something over a hundred years old. The mere purchase of them felt like a cheat. History discarded. Artifacts for the taking since nobody seems to really care about them anymore. I grew up with a photographer who made a living doing portraits. So I was familiar with that kind of life from the photographer’s perspective and the sorts of things people look for in having their portrait taken. Always a disconnect between the finished image and whatever had conjured itself in their heads. And I would wonder about such discontinuities that must’ve existed between the subjects and the final image. Every exposure incapable of capturing the context it pretends to present. The elusiveness of history staring back at me. In a sense I felt like these cabinet cards might as well be as old and forgotten as speleothems in a cave or an old recording of a faded tune warped by the passage of time. And after I assembled this piece in 2018 by superimposing the old portraits onto my photographs, I forgot about it for four and a half years until it haunted me again.
Happy New Year,