Monday 19th May, Phil Coomes, picture editor from the BBC interviewed me over the telephone regarding my project with the George Rodger Archive. It was such an honour to feel as though my work meant something more than just my work for university. I know that this work is worth more, of course, but to have it being recognised is fulfilling. Phil was a very relaxed and easy interviewee; I am thankful for his patience as I was feeling anxious that day while waiting for my book to arrive.
Phil started the interview by asking how I got to the George Rodger Archive. I said that it was a nice mixture of luck and networking I suppose. It is quite a confusing way of explaining the chain of conversations before it was me as the person doing a project with Jinx. I said that eventually when I visited the archive with Jinx and Jon Rodger, Carole Naggar and Jonathan Worth it was truly mindblowing. A collection of prints, letters, publications and diaries make up an extremely interesting archive which has got to be unlike any photographer’s of today.
We then went on to my research and how it has been put into practice with my project. I explained that archives are, in their definition, often hidden. It isn’t my job to make it so that it is open for all eyes to see, but to give a sense of what this archive stands for and how many stories are hidden between photographs. How can one begin to try and transcribe the feelings of searching a physical archive in a digital way? Archives are catalogued and organised just as one organises a computer; however, to be able to look at one thing and then link it to another may not be such an easy, or actually very rewarding. Why should archives mimic this sense of searching an archive online when it is just a version? An online audience cannot physically handle the beautiful artefacts themselves.
I spoke about Shaun Hides talking to me about the aura of an archive; once you poke at it and make it known that an archive is important and it exists, people are drawn to it and want to see it in its original form. I said that this is an important message which I took with me when thinking about how I can share the archive without giving all of the information away, but adding interest to what is there.
Coming to a decision to split the online and offline presence became an easy decision. But it is what and how I share which is important. I then talked about David Campbell who spoke in a Phonar lecture about how we make sense of the world through a narrative. Narratives are made by people so that we can share an experience in some way or another. I said that I have been focusing on one of George Rodger’s stories, number 38 which is the story about the Nuba tribes from the Southern Sudan. From this one experience I have looked into letters, diaries, magazines, Jinx’s stories to piece together a narrative that can help us make more sense of the story beyond what was taken by George and his camera. With there being extremely interesting artefacts in the archive, I didn’t want to share these online; I was also having to be careful about the Copyrighted material to share online as well. Although I am not making a profit, it is important that I am not making any clear infringements to George Rodger or Magnum.
We then discussed what would be found at the exhibition to which I explained a book which would page by page look deeper into the archive; two prints lent from Jinx; a print I took of the archive and two MP3 recordings of Jinx herself.
What an honour it was to be able to talk about my work. I felt like I should have been more prepared somewhat. It is difficult when dealing with complicated subject matter to find the right words to communicate it all properly. This is something I wish to work on more in the future.