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Of/From the Archives

Archives represent a human Obsession to remember, recollect, preserve and store. A desire to elude the star-crossed lovers, Death and Time. A  human self-obsession, self-love, pity, guilt, pride and hope.

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Photographs, from film to digital and from the daguerreotype to camera have seen modifications in materiality. With evolving but changing form/format, the photograph assumed different meanings.


Over years of reeling changes, the photograph’s value jumped out from inside the confines of its frame to envelope the material of the frame, the film, as if it had a life of its own, as if it were  a spirit, or a ghost. Un(dead).

What was this elixir that kept this vampire of a photograph hanging down like a bat in a dark, closed room, alive despite being dead? Well, for what blood is to vampire, nostalgia and/or melancholia are to photograph. 

Decorated in albums, the photograph is treasured. 

It is a cue to memory. A cue to recollection, 

a cue to relationships, a cue to locations,

a cue to sunglass trends, a cue to hairdos, 

a cue to intimacy, 

a cue to social circumstance, a cue to fashion, a cue to industry, 

a cue to language, a cue to culture, a cue to emotions,

a cue to cry, a cue to laugh, 

a cue to nostalgia—starting a cycle, not vicious but bittersweet.


Photographs are hence, cultural commodities; representation and manifestation of a cultural capital.


What does a photograph of a photograph do? 

Is it evocative, is it representational of the inner photo, is it a thing new or is it old?  One could look at the process of perceiving the photograph (which when perceived in a different time, space and context becomes an archive) as the making of cheese. As soon as the photograph is exposed to perception, it, like the cheese exposed to a new agent or ingredient, assumes a different flavour; different affective function. 

This overlaying of newer meaning on older archives, is a reiteration of its cultural value, its malleability and activity, in ironically, its un(dead) form.

This irony strengthens as one enters the realm of the digital. Is the photograph even real? What is real? Jean Baudrillard postulated the idea of no real or originals and only copies in the digital era as ‘simulacrum’.  

The paranoia of many with respect to the digital and its ‘non-realness’ has resulted in something called the analogue aesthetic or the analogue nostalgia which this image of the film photos reflects, quite literally. 

The Obsession prevails. 

Confined to the walls of the house during quarantine, the mind wanders and enters old drawers and closets. As old archives and histories, known and unknown, spill out, glinting against plastic covers that protect the photographs from damage, a new set of recollections are born, new memories made still, in context of our elusive, testing times. 

A comfort, a warmth, a smile, slowly like the days in quarantine, spreads on faces; family, friends, lovers, parents and children. 

Good old bittersweet nostalgia, good old hope, ​

for now.

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