Who do you think you are? I typed my name into Google Images and pressed return.
To my amazement I was presented with a screen full of photographs that I had taken over several years. Images from my creative practice, holidays, freelance jobs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter images and more. The biggest revelation was the way it appeared curated, pictures from different times, taken for different reasons on different cameras all placed neatly together.
An exciting outcome for me was there appeared to be a sense of continuity, even thought. It looks colourful, I’d not realised I used colour in this way. Normally I think in sets of photographs and these sets would be chosen and put together by me, this time Google was doing the choosing and combinations are suddenly thrown together that I wouldn’t have considered. It feels like I’m able to see my visual mind in this collection of photographs, certain themes and ideas are alluded to, threads connect pictures I’d never consciously seen before.
This simple act has enabled me to reflect on my approach to recording my world. There is a spark of magic here, technology that absorbs and responds to how people interact and share digitally has created a selection of my own work for me, flattening time, purpose and meaning and consequently providing a new reading of my ideas and vision. It is a giant self-portrait that I didn’t know I was making all held together by Google glue. How curious that an American multinational company can provide such a sensitive visual curation of a British photographers work. This is no static arrangement, it changes regularly, and the more I throw at the digital realm the more it refreshes. This is a transformative technology that can turn words into a set of images, you type into that Google search box, click images and the curation begins.
The domain name for Google was registered on 15th September 1997, in the scheme of things this is not a long time ago, but long enough it would seem to have a profound influence over the way we live on a day-to-day basis. Long enough to help alter how we interact with media. At the same time photography has been changing, the delay has gone, you no longer need to process your film and wait for the prints. In fact you no longer need to carry a camera. Our relationship with photographs has changed, we can instantly share visuals with everyone, and in this case, contribute to an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of framed moments, of memories. Except unlike the Kodak moments preserved in the family album of yesteryear, these images can just as easily disappear, moved on by new images. Is our relationship with remembering changing? Who needs to remember when you can Google it?
We are at an interesting point in time, the shift from the physical to the digital, photography, literature and music, all now accessed in a less tactile way. The conflict of these two worlds actually makes for fertile creative territory and I’m enjoying mixing the two, trying to make the two languages harmonise.
The search results from the 19th March 2013 have formed the basis for this book. The sequence runs from page 1 to page 95 in the order they are ranked by Google Images.
I have created a short run of these books for a selection of libraries in central Liverpool. The books are being donated and displayed as reference books for the duration of Look/13.
I’m interested in libraries as they are in many ways the physical representation of knowledge, an architectural space filled with all aspects of human culture and understanding. Before the World Wide Web and Google they were the main way to undertake research. They are at the forefront of the transition from the physical to the digital, adapting to the way we access information, whether this is for study or entertainment. Transitions are a reoccurring theme in my creative practice. ‘Searching’ - the title of this work refers to the search engine technology that allows us to trawl the digital world that enables the creation of this project. It is also a reference to being a photographer and the constant scanning of the world, looking for opportunities to frame and record. Thirdly it refers to the process of searching the stock of a physical library, in this instance for a book entitled Searching.
A big thank you to the following people for their contribution and involvement in the project:
Diane Swan - Brogue wearing muse
Liaison Librarian for the Arts
University of Liverpool
Divisional Manager Libraries (Interim)
Liverpool Central Library & Archive
Emily Parsons & Morag Fyfe
Special Collections & Archives / Art & Design
Liverpool John Moores University
Laser cutting expert