Liz-Ann Vincent-Merry

University: Plymouth University

Graduation: 2014 & 2016

Website: www.lavincentmerry.com

Statement: As a practicing artist, I use found photographs to explore the individual and collective self, the social issues of normality and the role placed upon us by society. I am driven by research-led projects that push me as an artist and as an individual. This photobook consists of 3 books and is part of larger and ongoing project that looks at 1,200 identity photographs dating from the early 20th century until approximately 1970. Most are of families and individuals from southeast France, others are of people who lived in Algeria before independence; some are also from Morocco, Tunisia and Bulgaria.

The Marseille Papers photobook

The Marseille Papers photobook

What university did you attend and when did you graduate? I studied BA (Hons) Photography at Plymouth University from 2011 to 2014. Straight from finishing this, I went on to study a Masters in Photography again at Plymouth from 2014, graduating in September 2016.

What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? I cannot pinpoint one favourite photobook; I have many for all different sorts of reasons. But if I had to pick one it would probably be Solitude of Ravens by Masahisa Fukase but more for personal reasons. I came across this book during a time when I was experiencing similar events in my life to Fukase.

Image from Book 1 - Unravelling an Archive

Image from Book 1 - Unravelling an Archive

Direction: My passion for photography began when my children were small and has continued to grow from then. However, my obsession and interest for found photographs I think began when I was a child, when sitting on my grandmother’s knee we would look at her photo album of my mother growing up in the war in Holland. I would listen to her intently recounting past stories, these images thus became better than the ones in my own picture books. Although bookmaking was taught and encouraged on my BA, my route into book making probably really took off in my first year on the MA, when I discovered a natural flair for design, attention to detail and content of photographic books under the expert guidance of David Chandler.

Image from book 2 - The House of Sleeping Beauties

Image from book 2 - The House of Sleeping Beauties

Considerations: The main volume of the trilogy, Unravelling an Archive, is to give the viewer an idea of the vast array of people within the collection and relates to social classification. The reason why I put all the photographs within a book is because I wanted the viewer to feel intimate and familiar with the people as they work through the pages in a close and contemplative space. Keeping the book simple, similar to a government document, the finished volume consists of 160 pages. The other two books in the trilogy, The House of Sleeping Beauties and Searching for Alain, are my investigations into the archive. All are size A4, printed on off-white paper, Coptic bound with sewn board bindings, covered in a light grey fabric with end papers to reflect the tones of the images and housed in a similar clothed slipcase.

The Marseille Papers photobook

The Marseille Papers photobook

Interior:

Book I - sequencing worked around the idea of the grid as if composing music, each face being a note, their expression a musical rhythm, with the fronts on the left-hand side and the backs mirrored on the right-hand side of a spread. The break between each group gives the reader a space to breathe. There is a quote by Scott McQuire followed by a foreword outlining the concept and an index at the back listing categories.

Book II - includes close-up images of 14 women from the archive. I chose to focus on the women to bring them to the fore because the time when the majority of these photographs were taken, women where categorised within the private space, the home, which meant isolation and repression.

Book III - contains 9 images, to give a sense of mystery in my search for clues and ghosts lurking in Marseille.

The Marseille Papers photobook

The Marseille Papers photobook

Inspiration: For inspiration I look at many photobooks, but it is probably the ones that are distinctive, simple or research based that I gain more from. I am very meticulous about straight lines and structures, so with regards to visual influences I am drawn to grids and making order out of chaos. Photographers; I could write down quite a few, but Christian Boltanski is very high on the list; there is also Mark Dion, Susan Hiller, Tacita Dean, Jorma Puranen and Joachim Schmid. A book I always refer to is Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. Another is Pandora’s Camera by Joan Fontcuberta. When I am feeling playful, I dip into The Photographer’s Playbook.

Image from book 3 - Searching for Alain

Image from book 3 - Searching for Alain

Advice and Future Goals: I really enjoy creating and designing books in my spare time, hopefully one day I'll find a publisher, but the big wide world beckons and the hard work, as in getting myself out there, begins now. I am delighted to have been nominated for the MACK First Book Award 2017, even if I do not get shortlisted at least my book The Marseille Papers will be out there seen by important people. If I could give advice, keep it simple and ask yourself before making a book. A tip I picked up from Jörg Colberg, whose blog I follow is ‘not who will publish it or how big it should be or whether it should have gatefolds or whatever else. It should be: does this book really have to be made? Will this add something to all of these books that already exist?’