Weldon, Simon (2021) The Transformative Potential of Photographic Archives: How Investigating the Power Dynamics and Veracity Within Photographic Archives Can Establish a Collaborative Practice that Readdresses the Past. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In 2013, my Father Michael Brian Weldon passed away following a long struggle with alcohol addiction. Out of the little remaining material items that we possessed of my Father following his death, it was his archive of photographs that we saved which emotionally captivated me the most. This photographic archive had laid dormant and untouched since my Father had left it within the loft of the family home. This extensive collection of photographic material offered to me, not only physical photographic evidence of my Father’s life and history, but it also represented a reflection of his cognitive processes.

Obtaining access to this archive appeared to offer a way into his memory and psyche. Through the visual material of his own creation, I sought to uncover aspects of my Father and the origins or causes of his addiction. These discoveries would become the catalyst for the formation of photographic responses and new contemplative narratives that sought to readdress my feelings of grief following his passing.

This thesis documents the investigation into the archive of my Father, navigating the tensions surrounding the capacity of photographs and photographic archives to reveal and influence our perception the past. Through analysing the archive’s relationship to power and the ambiguity of the photograph, this text explores how photographs are appropriated by those with the authority to interpret and determine their meanings. Establishing this not only encourages us to reflect upon the broader persuasive power of photographic archives, but it asserts my claim over the content of my Father’s archive to create new photographic narratives that engages with personal memory.

Through conducting this research, the text also reveals and highlights that the archive’s construction specifically frames what we can return to interpret. This discloses a mutually responsive power dynamic. The influence of this indicates that working with photographic archives is inherently collaborative rather than purely appropriative or responsive. Recognising this allows for a transformation of photographic practice when engaging with archives and offers an alternative means in which to readdress the past.

FINAL THESIS - WELDON.pdf - Accepted Version

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