Collages, drawings, paintings and more annotate Davison’s original photobook, inviting us to contemplate the work anew
Sinuous ants creep across hands clutching apples, while black scribbles obscure the rich creams and blues of a cloud, and thick strokes of brightly coloured paint coat a man’s now barely visible face. These are Jack Davison’s photographs but reworked by the hands of thirty-two artists, both emerging and well-known, who received copies of his debut monograph Photographs, published by Loose Joints, to ‘annotate’. Painters, photographers, sculptors, collagists, illustrators and even children (including Davison’s nephews) appropriated the photographs with absolute freedom: scribbling, painting, drawing and cutting. Collectively, the annotations make for a playful, vivid reworking of Davison’s original publication. But, just as the photographs did before, they also stand alone as artworks in and of themselves.
We invited six of the artists to reflect on how Davison’s work inspired them.
Katrien De Blauwer
Initially, it was tricky to work with contemporary photographs, which are strong on their own and already published in a photobook. (I usually never cut from photo books). I’m used to working with images from old magazines and different sources and somehow had the feeling that I couldn’t add anything more to these compelling and very individual images. In the end, I made a selection of images that appealed to me and pulled Jack’s world into mine. The result is a merging of both our worlds.
Something is calming about Davison’s work. It is easy to connect to and make up your own story with each piece. It speaks to me because those aspects go hand in hand with my work. That’s what I tried to embrace: show a small part of a story while leaving enough mystery to create your own.
It felt fun and rebellious to work directly on top of Davison’s photographs, especially as my aesthetic style is pretty different to his. In some cases, I used the existing colours in the photograph as a starting point, and in others, I went for a full-on abstraction of the image. The annotations are representative of my usual style, with repetitions of colours and motifs I use a lot in my work while hopefully still respecting and complementing Davison’s photography underneath.
Ottile and Hamish Lloyd Platt
During the lockdown, my two-year-old daughter and I made a few videos of our ‘art club’ sessions. Drawing together is fun, and we (sometimes) create something beautifully chaotic. She scribbles, and I do the slightly less scribbly annotations by making a face or figure from it. ‘Annotation’ is probably too grandiose a word for our process, but we wanted to try working over the darker images with white chalk and coloured pencils. And love-heart stamps, all the classic two-year-old tools of the trade. Ottile’s favourite images are the flower and parrot, squawk!
“Looking at the works, I was reminded of a trip to Japan: rain, people, playing in the park. And so I contributed these collages. One is a rain scene I drew and drawings of Yoyogi park, where the kids played, compose the other — I was there with Himaa and we drew the scenery. So it is more a collage of memories. But, I think it comes together nicely and does not take too much away from the original work.”
Nathalie du Pasquier
The project took me away from the paintings I was doing during that period, which all centred on myself. Once I started on the book, I could not stop, and, in the end, I created interventions on every page even though they only required a few. The book’s photos are all very different, which made the interventions so interesting, sometimes calling for a formal intervention, other times pushing me towards a “meaning”: a sense of light poetry. I have combined bits of existing works of mine with Davison’s images. It felt like a dialogue at a distance.
Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.