52 by 52 11:22am, 12 January 2012
Photograph to make sense of the past: what has been, and how it has affected what has come after
— David Maisel

A 52 by 52 member recently contacted us suggesting we create a thread for each challenge, great idea thanks John :) Since this week's challenge is quite, well... challenging, we thought this would be a good time to start!

What's your views on the challenge?
Does the abstract nature of the challenge give you a sense of freedom or disorientation? Both?
Does a photo you've previously taken fit the challenge?
Is there an artist (in any medium) that you think has approached the subject successfully before?

We're thinking this thread could act as a focal point for discussion around the challenge, including your initial reactions, thoughts about how to "solve it" and any links you think might help the group. It can also be a good place to include any old photos you have that fit the challenge.

As it often the case the challenge has a strong relationship with its author's own work, particularly David's latest projects History’s Shadow and Library of Dust.


History’s Shadow

Through the x-ray, the artworks of origin become de-familiarized and de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed. Culled from archives and re-photographed by the artist, the spectral qualities of these renderings are like transmissions from the distant past, conveying messages across time.

Library of Dust

. . . these canisters hold the cremated remains of patients from an American psychiatric hospital. Oddly reminiscent of bullet casings, the canisters are literal gravesites. Reacting with their ash inhabitants, the canisters are now blooming with secondary minerals, articulating new metallic landscapes.


We find that it's often the journey and not the destination that can be the most appealing thing about challenges that touch on such profound themes.

We're looking forward to hearing people's thoughts.

— 52 by 52 team
Julia M Cameron PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Julia M Cameron (admin) 6 years ago
The idea of using an "imprint" or "echo" of the past connected to the present is where my head is at the moment. How to do this visually is more challenging. I opened and read the challenge while in our local museum, mused over it with a cup of tea and tried out some ideas. I've started to create sets for each challenge and as soon as processing is complete, will start putting them up on Flickr. Any feedback will be gratefully received!

Palofperu PRO 6 years ago
When I read the challenge I was flummoxed. Having looked at David Maisel's site I understand the challenge more clearly but still don't know how best to respond. Initially I thought of 'the child is father to the man' and how our own bodies change over time but I'd like to try and push towards a more abstract and not a figurative image. Given my limited equipment I'll need to think long and hard and might not post anything this week. I like your idea of imprint/echo Julia. Your work is always so impeccable I look forward to seeing your response.
K8ieSmith 6 years ago
I came across 'Dear Photograph' last week which is a crowd sourced project encouraging people to take a photograph of a photograph from the past in the present, it's poignant and beautiful. I was going to do something similar but it seemed like a cheat to take the idea out of the context of the project.

When I read the brief my initial response was similar to Julia's. it made me think about the work of artist Catherine Bartola. Her work involves creating installations, objects and drawings that respond to particular sites, collections and historic contexts. She looks beyond the surface of objects and buildings, to uncover the forgotten and invisible stories of the past.

I'm thinking about looking for buildings that have been repurposed for a different uses but that's as far as I've got! looking forward to seeing everyone elses responses to this challenge.
david_gillett Posted 6 years ago. Edited by david_gillett (admin) 6 years ago
I love the Death Mask series Julia, it's a really eloquent take on the challenge with subtle connections to David's own work.

Thanks for the link to Dear Photograph Katie, it's provided some much needed inspiration! I'm now thinking about going back to revisit a series of photos I took years ago to see how I approach the same subject nearly 4 years on.

I think my style has subtly shifted in that time, I've been trying to place more emphasis on letting the subject breathe and less on creating a shot with immediate aesthetic appeal. Also portraiture seems to play a much more prominent role than it did in my previous photos.

Here's a few shots from the original unfinished mini-series
Larking About 6 years ago
I have a copy of library of dust - completely unique weird yet beautiful.
Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago
This is an old photo of a performance artist who works with historical events and enacts a ritual to mark it's passing.Elena Italia Performance 4
johnpaddler PRO 6 years ago
Oh! Dear! I don't have an x-ray machine, nor a kite to catch one of those aerial views revealing hidden archeology in a field of barley.

Came upon these lines whilst chasing up an unrelated matter:

ESTRAGON: We came here yesterday.
VLADIMIR: Ah no, there you're mistaken.
ESTRAGON: What did we do yesterday?
VLADIMIR: What did we do yesterday?
VLADIMIR: Why . . . (Angrily.) Nothing is certain when you're about.
ESTRAGON: In my opinion we were here.
VLADIMIR: (looking round). You recognize the place?
ESTRAGON: I didn't say that.

For some people photographs provide their only sense of past. They take photographs to remind them what they did yesterday, where they went, what they had for lunch.


Old photo, taken because it reminded me of Solzhenitsyn, Cold War, Russian famines, thieved kidneys...
Julia M Cameron PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Julia M Cameron (admin) 6 years ago
Great Lines John.
I've found this challenge has given me so much food for thought...if you'll excuse the analogy.

Went to the seaside town of Great Yarmouth yesterday...January...mostly closed. However, there were so many potential images that fit the challenge. Here is just one.

Great Yarmouth Hippodrome
david_gillett 6 years ago
A friend of mine took a shot of every meal he ate for months in an effort to improve his diet. But as he flicked through the photos on his phone they seemed to act as something much more than a record of his eating habits but a reminder of everything that surrounded the place and time the meal was eaten.

Very jealous! I need to get round to buying one of his books, History's Shadow made it on to quite a few Best of 2011 lists around the web.

Thanks for the old photos, I really like the performance artist one.

Old Photo: I've been to a few Summer Solstices at Stonehenge, always good fun and a time to think about the connection between past, present and future:
Summer Solstice 2009 by david_gillett
Anne Scherbina 6 years ago
I had a really hard time choosing between 2 photos for this challenge. Here is the one I didn't pick.

#20 An Unknown Time by Anne Scherbina
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