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Photographic interventions within the Edward Chambré Hardman portraiture archive

Roberts, Keith William (2017) Photographic interventions within the Edward Chambré Hardman portraiture archive. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This project contains a written thesis detailing the research methodology, conceptual framework and a body of practice as evidenced through the text. The practice involves intervention within a large archive of commercial photographic portraiture, consisting of over 100,000 monochrome negatives, taken in Liverpool by the photographer Edward Chambré Hardman (1898-1988) between 1923-1963. The research focuses upon the mapping of this archive, through the development of a bespoke database, created from the studio registers, that were used as part of Hardman’s commercial photographic portraiture practice. The database is a research tool that has provided a vehicle through which to make the archive more accessible. In addition to this it has also facilitated the location of patterns across the 40 year practice, and in particular what I have called the Intermission Portrait, which is presented as two portrait pairings of the same individual, shot by Hardman at two different points in time. The research asks how, through the development of a database, which catalogues Edward Chambré Hardman’s commercial portraiture archive, can be used as a means to identify and retrieve images from this archive, in order to enable the development of presentation strategies for these portraits, in way they were never originally intended. It also asks how such presentation strategies can be used in order to make such generally unseen portraits publicly visible, enabling the generation of new narrative related meanings on behalf of the spectator of the work. In addition to this, it asks how geographical locations can be used in order to develop site-specific related meanings for the portraits being displayed. Lastly it asks how archival intervention of this nature has the potential to make this archive of commercial portraits more accessible, thus contributing to its longevity. The thesis reflects upon this practice, with the conceptual framework exploring theories developed by Marianne Hirsch in relation to post memory, Annette Kuhn in relation to memory work, Michael Thompson in relation to rubbish theory and Tina Campt in relation to her theory about listening to archival images. It also references critical debate regarding the role of institutions tasked with the conservation and protection of photographic negative archives and collections, and the challenges faced by the researcher when dealing with such agencies. The practice of intervening into this archive has resulted in several different location based installations located across the North West of England, dealing firstly with Intermission Portraits, and then location based portraits, taken from the commercial portraiture component of Hardman’s archive, through the use of the database created specifically as a research tool. In addition to this, a series of site-specific location based portraits have also been installed and reflected upon in terms of the narrative-related feedback offered by the spectators of the work. The format of the self-published artist book has also been used alongside other models, in order to test display strategies and explore the creative practice.

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