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Read, Watch and Listen

South Africa

The Boer War 1899-1902. Group Portrait.

© ICRC archives (ARR)

Textile trials for ‘The Ties That Bind (I)’

After several stages working digitally and on paper, the work progressed to textile experiments incorporating digital printing, stitch, heat transfer printing, screen printing and hand painting with reactive dyes. Specific images were incorporated alongside portrait photographs to communicate the objector’s story. The first triptych particularly featured crossed out medals to connote lack of bravery, stamps to denote the period (and suggest ‘for king and country’) and white feathers as symbols of cowardice. 

Cover, 'Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining: How to Have Guests - And Enjoy Them'

New York: Golden Press, 1959. Illustrated by Peter Spier. Courtesy of General Mills Archives.

Published advice is sometimes given by invented authors, such as Betty Crocker. This cover resembles needlepoint, a home craft typically applied to domestic soft furnishings and accessories. The imagery emphasises traditional home comforts: a red-roofed home set in landscaped garden with a white picket fence is framed with a cartouche showing a teapot, roast turkey, leg of ham, pink iced celebration cake, pineapple (symbol of welcome). The cover features Crocker’s ‘signature’, and a possessive title, exemplifying charismatic legitimisation.

Family in Bathers/Studio, Unframed Tintype

19th century examples of sitters wearing bathing costumes paradoxically have not been taken at the seaside, but rather at nearby portrait studios frequently situated close to the beach. This modest unframed tintype is perhaps an example of the studio bathing costume portrait at its most stark.

Spain - Barcelona

Spanish civil war, 1936-1939. Barcelona. People queuing in front of the delegation to fill in requests.

© ICRC

Sketch book page and family photographs

Family and war photographs formed the first components for visual experimentation to convey John Edgar Bell’s story. Tentative narrative relationships between photographic images and other visual signifiers such as colour and mark were explored, creating micro visual syntagms and analysing the potential meanings they might convey. Within the research two textile triptychs were developed, with responses to the first triptych informing the image content in the second set of panels. 

Back cover, Sarah Maclean, 'Pan Book of Etiquette and Good Manners'

London: Pan, 1962.

This back cover juxtaposes a pensive woman with a number of questions, implying that these are the questions on her mind. A box at the top of the questions asks ‘How often do you stop to wonder -’ thereby connecting the woman shown, with the reader. In this example visual imagery is used to provide a representative for the reader and to make the questions asked, and answered, in the text, more direct and vivid.

Couple in Bathers/Studio

This studio portrait of a couple in bathing costumes whilst modest nevertheless seeks a more naturalistic mise-en-scene of faux beach, rock and driftwood and is then given further depth through the tromp l’oeil seascape backdrop. The rented bathing costumes bear the name of the photographer’s studio ‘H.J.Larkins’, but as a tintype seen here in lateral reverse.

Spain - Madrid

Spanish civil war, 1936-1939. Madrid. The Red Cross Central Hospital.

1937 © CR Espagne

Richmond cell walls: writing

It was not known where John Edgar Bell was imprisoned, but his health deteriorated and he agreed to non-combatant service in 1918. His family moved home from Denholme to Saltaire (West Yorkshire) due to abuse from the community, but this continued when his war status became known. Although he was a skilled engineer he could only get employment as a lamp lighter after the war, as no one wanted to work with a ‘conchie’.