Something Borrowed, Something New

by nathandowningsolent

The process of manipulation, recreation and experimental layering of borrowed or found images is a concept that has become of exponential interest to me over the past month. A method of photography based on the rediscovery and theoretical up-cycling of previous images.

Questionable to some regarding the ‘art of photography’, but still interesting and highly conceptual. A format of process familiar to myself and one that I find can be the most gratifying to create. The obtaining of photographs, unknown in meaning, seems curios to the eye. Their identity is mysterious and gripping, but without a defined story, we are left to our own imagination. I find this is a far more exciting way of viewing photography and certainly a point of focus for this unit.





Above are some of my found images, a collection of captivating portraits including a variety of unknown people. Each visually communicating their desired emotive expressions, up right in posture, and all baring extremely charismatic connotations and self-reflective expressions. It is not only who is in the photo that invokes a heightened interest, but also the notion of where? How have these photographs been rediscovered and where have they come from? The three portraits have been obtained from the online auction site, ebay. Bringing to light the notion of an image having once being thought of as a permanent legacy, as an attempted grasp at immortality, or merely an imprint in history documenting your here existence. But has this longing for immortality lead to an unfortunate deterioration of a photographs meaning or identity, as it is passed from hand to hand.

Following a group collaboration in which four of us came together, we created artwork using images that we had collected and chosen together. Some of us had portraits, and some had places, but after comparison and discussion we had chosen the photos and themes we wanted to experiment with. We were interested, amongst other themes, in the idea of lost identity and the unknown, we decided to develop this further. In hopes of grasping a defined outcome, we frequently played with this concept, shaping and pushing it in the right direction, until we had collectively discovered something that worked. Some of the experiments also include other concepts that caught our focus.

Anon, Per Olsen, 2015

Anon, Per Olsen, 2014

This image, accountable to Per Olsen, shows an overlaying of people and place, creating a narrative and correlation between the individuals story and the underlying setting. Perhaps a place of happiness and peace of mind, offering a tranquil setting with elements of self-reflection, away from any unwanted disturbance. All of these fictional suggestions help morph the way analyse the image, deciphering the image’s connotative content helps the viewer engage and understand the photograph in its true purpose.

Anon, Nathan Downing, 2015

Anon, Nathan Downing, 2014

The comedic value of this photo is paramount to its meaning. Looking at the contemporary art world and the innovation seen in its practice since it’s seemingly less-developed predecessors, modern art’s progression seems somewhat unquestionably impressive. Modernity is forever finding new ways to transform and build upon the past and art is certainly no exception. In this image, I am playing with the notion of contemporary art mocking its predecessors. With postmodernism utilised in its raw literal definition, this manipulative mockery encourages the viewer to compare the likes of avant-garde techniques and concepts, with that of older and more traditional practice. It is myself that created the final composition and after discussion with the group we decided, although the concept was strong, we would choose this last image and accompanying theory as our final.

Anon, Juanrie Strydom, 2015

Our final selected image, created by Juanrie Strydom, is one that we thought strongly demonstrated the deterioration of a photographic legacy as time and generations pass by. The rips in the photograph show that the subjects identity is still intact but is gradually breaking away, retrospectively looking at the loss of a true meaning behind the subject’s story. The repeated portrait then becomes visible through the worn image, the same picture, yet through time this second image is one lacking truthful connotations; the initial function of the image has long since been lost.

This was certainly a thought-provoking series of experiments, sure to invoke further personal development. Finding, comparing and layering found images is an engrossing challenge, one I look forward to continuing. The idea of taking such images, borrowed from elsewhere, and recreating new work based on those pictures, is one that has attracted plenty of artists, particularly in a modern artistic setting. It is an extremely creative process, accountable for a wide variety of fascinating works that are both visually and theoretically engaging.


Shore, R, “Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera”, 2014, Laurence King Publishing, London