L'Oeil De Photographie - Sarah Tulloch, Object Image - Myrtille Beauvert, Sept 20 2017

Sarah Tulloch: ObjectImage, published by Daylight Books, is a poignant approach to the physical material of a photograph and a re-imagination of it into new forms.

Your first series Faultline and Cut Series were made with family images, then you introduced postcards and later, newspapers. How was that process, moving from personal to public material?

The process happened over a period of 3 to 4 years so actually it was quite an organic progression. First I was working with this personal material that I inherited but quite quickly I was adding to this from sources like eBay or Flea markets that represented that genre or

activity of family album photography. It’s important to say that many of the people or places in my own family collection were unknown to me and so I categorized many of the images into general themes like “garden visits” or “portraits with a dog”, this shift from specific to

general allowed me to work more freely with the material and associated themes of memory, family and the object of photography.

As my process developed and I created more and more cuts and abstracted forms

I generated piles of off-cuts and it made sense to use the bi-products as they were a trace of how I was working at the time and a very physical testament to the object nature of the photograph. This work became Postcards and returned the off-cuts to their original format of photo postcards but with the subject or image content abstracted and re-founded for my own


The shift to newspapers was a bigger step and did reflect a desire to work with a different more contemporary image culture. Artist Marjolaine Ryley says something about this change in the book; she points out that the unique object of the found photograph disconnected from its original negative is destroyed in my work with family album photos and with Newspaper Heads I am taking something everyday and throwaway and making it into an art object, so it’s a

reverse action.

How do you choose the images you work with, whether they come from your grandfather collection, flea markets or newspapers?

More often than not the images come to me, as in inheriting my grandpa’s collection and an idea or series of works grows from that and I might add to the collection. Again this has happened in reverse with the Newspaper Heads, I chose them as a ubiquitous,

throwaway image bank which reflected a different aspect of the “everyday”. They also interested me because they had natural juxtapositions of imagery already within them.

Collage thrives even derives its power from juxtaposition and within newspapers one page would be a natural or man-made disaster or tragedy and opposite you might find an advert for a car. However distasteful, this mixing of tone and genre reflects the complexity and distraction of contemporary life and I felt it was a fertile place to work with and in some ways against. Recently because of my Newspaper Heads work I have been given a huge collection of old Observer magazines (the weekend Guardian paper) from the 70s to late 80s. Intriguingly I

am back to the place on the circle of “inheriting” a collection.

It is striking how many themes we might think of as uniquely “happening now” (for example the

funding of art education, or discussions about ‘what is Britishness?) are covered in these older magazines.

The sense of history or time as cyclical or spiral is very strong when I look at these old magazines which also happen to cover the period of my early childhood, I am

almost certain new work will emerge from this new/old material!

Were you influenced by the tradition of photomontage with a strong political message?

Yes, but not exclusively, I am just as excited by form and new ways of looking at the material. I love the work of Hannah Höch for example but am equally in awe of her virtuosity with her chosen material as the message. I would follow John Stezaker in saying that I don’t view

images as inter-changeable with particles of speech but inevitably if you start to use newspaper imagery your work becomes more political. There are incredible artists

like Martha Rosler and I particularly remember her Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful series or KennardPhillips’ work. I think these types of artists gave me permission and inspiration to tackle contemporary events but in my work they run alongside more banal imagery you also find in newspapers. Many works are now becoming a hybrid of recognizable “characters” on the world stage and more abstracted forms extending to

both sides of the works such as Little Feather and Trump, The Guardian 10th January 2017. I think it’s also important to say my chosen method means I am takingwhat is “fed” from the mainstream media and manipulating that rather than deciding on my message

and then looking for the imagery that will best carry that message.

How do you articulate method and chance in your work?

I welcome elements of both and much like my answer to previous questions I think I am trying to hold in tension sometimes things that are considered as opposing. In regards to method and chance the tension is between selection and purpose and allowing chance to play its

role in that selection or material manipulation. Play is an important notion to include here; it allows a freedom of imagination and association between image and object qualities that is important to the way the work functions. French philosopher Jacques Rancière talks about the aesthetic image being both a cipher for and interruption to history and I think this underpins some of my method of cutting, shifting or disrupting the main subject by material and compositional interventions.

With Cut Series and later Postcards there was also a method in terms of categorizing and drawing out commonalities while the material came to me unlooked for and I chose to respond. With Newspaper Heads the chance and method combine in the self-imposed

structure of taking a daily newspaper and using that edit of images to make something.

You sometime photograph or scan your compositions and exhibit or publish them in a larger size than the original. What is your conception of

the original ObjectImage?

Well the original is the original but given my method often destroys an original found photograph to make it again, I feel comfortable with the process of scanning to

exhibit on a larger scale. I wanted the viewer to have a different physical relation to the work and playing with scale is a way to stretch the original format. In the case of Cut Series the originals would normally be associated with a domestic and intimate hand-held scale.

Additionally, the scanning process actually revealed more patina and surface marks than you can see on the original so it served as an extension of my material investigation of the object.

Making invisible aspects of that surface visible was very exciting and seeing the

fuzzy edge of rips or cuts I had made become visible fibers added something further I could not have fully anticipated. In terms of publishing images at different scales to the original my advice was to consider the format, i.e. a book, and respond to how best an image

would work on each page? How can I consider the book as an artwork in its own right and what is appropriate for that presentation of my work? The use of close-up or cropped images is to emphasize certain material qualities, to “get a closer look”, like leaning in to see

the corner of a painting or the edge of a blade of grass. This shift of perspective is a huge part of how I think about making work and supersedes any anxiety about denuding the original.