Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Scarification : African Artefacts

Chapter VI of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.

Scarification : African Artefacts

© Ian Talbot

“Art is possible without artistic intention and can be better without it.” Hiroshi Sugimoto

    My wife spent a large part of her childhood in South Africa. From old family snaps and everything she has told me it was a happy, almost carefree, childhood largely spent playing outdoors in the bright sun. I have never been there but for me the “idea” of Africa largely revolved around notions of the “Dark Continent” and a feeling of foreboding. In my imagination, Africa WAS the “Heart of Darkness”.

    Around the house we have various decorative African artefacts. All of them have one thing in common; they are not “authentic” artworks but merely artefacts fabricated for the tourist market. They have nothing of the true soul of Africa, they serve only to express the “idea” of Africa. Oh, and they were also all picked up second hand in junk shops.

    In typography one of the first things you learn is the difference between legibility and readability. Roughly… If you can recognise what letter a character represents then one can say that the font is legible. Readability has to do with line length, leading, line height etc. In other words how comfortable it is to read when a particular font is set as text. A font can be legible without necessarily being readable, it can’t be readable without being legible.

    I guess you could say the same isn’t necessarily true for photography. In creating my images of these objects I have deliberately compressed the dark tonal range so that the result is just this side of legibility to represent the “idea” of darkness that I associate with that continent. If that is the impression they convey then these images are, to that extent, “readable”.

    In all honesty the resulting series is, for me, a little something and nothing… Yet, if they carry a flavour of my second hand notions of the source of these second hand artefacts, I am reasonably satisfied that they have fulfilled their purpose.

    Ian Talbot

    Text & image © Ian Talbot

Next week
Two Can : Kitchen Mania

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