Goatcarts were popular Victorian entertainment rides for children at the seaside and these two boys typify similar images circa 1880. They do not smile, the cart is still and the sea wall offers a stark and static backdrop for the camera’s slow shutter speed. Images such as this, whilst commonly referred to as tintypes are actually ferrotypes – a direct positive image on enamelled iron.
Wax crayon and watercolour 2009
There are many ways of seeing into the earth. Remote sensing is increasingly used in archaeology as a non-intrusive method of mapping large areas of landscape. This allows us to reveal the relationships of archaeological features over large scales and time periods. This drawing is based on a survey undertaken with the British School at Rome near Tivoli, Italy. The regimented lines of a Roman villa are surrounded by the smooth quiet of undisturbed land.
This illustration shows a scene from the Shahnameh, an epic work that recounts Iran’s historical and mythological past. Elements from Roman, Greek and Zoroastrian sources are echoed in the depicted central hero, Rostam. A feline skin covers Rostam’s helmet and jacket, mirroring the Greek hero Herakles’ famed lion pelt. As seen in Commagene, Herakles was associated with Verethragna, the Zoroastrian divinity of Victory who appeared as a gold-adorned horse and warrior. Golden details also decorate Rostam’s illustrated weapons and armour.
© Trustees of the British Museum
Photographs of people across the panels generated readings related to family and the impact of war, particularly loss, suffering, love, absence and separation, such as “the fragility of an individual family in a wartime situation”. The photographs led some viewers to reflect on personal experiences and family histories, one viewer responding that the woman and barbed wire reminded them of “someone I knew who was in some kind of internment camp as a child in World War Two”.
This is a seaside ambrotype – a glass plate positive image. Ambrotypes were from the 1880s largely superseded by the American imported tintype. It was obvious to see why, the tintype whilst in many ways inferior, was cheaper, lighter and obviously far more durable than glass. Clearly pragmatics such as cost, speed and material resilience took precedence. But both ambrotype and tintype offered instant gratification – photographs taken and finished while the Victorian client waited.
Digital Photograph 2010
Peeling off the turf and exploring the layers that lie beneath allows a unique view into the earth and our relationship with it. The process allows a close and tacit understanding. The archaeologist’s hand learns the feel of loams and grits, fills and cuts. These long remembered details and textures build a material memory of the archaeological.
“I was given some contextual background to Auriol’s translation of Sam’s piece that I initially thought I would base my translation on. However I felt unable to translate her narrative and realised I would only be interpreting it. Ultimately I turned to a material translation to translate some of the key themes of her work. Taking inspiration from translations such as Hölderlin's Antigone and Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, I hope my material translation can convey Auriol’s piece to you.”
Conscientious objectors and their families received white feathers as a symbol of cowardice, so these were included in both triptychs. One viewer particularly interpreted the family photo and feather as “carrying disgrace of white feather, suffering through loss and convictions of others, betrayal of country and church to support them”. Most viewers interpreted the feather as cowardice but there was some aberrant decoding, including “for pigeon carriers at the front line”, “elements of nature”, “symbol of peace and love” and “writing implement”.
This unframed tintype is taken at the coast, with the beach and sea wall present. To further indicate place, seaside paraphernalia of buckets, spades and bonnets are either held or laid out. Indicative of somewhat slapdash photographic practice, the fishing net pokes out absurdly from the father’s head. The image is at once formal, but made informal by the (mis)placed net and further ‘softened’ by the boy in the back row beginning to move into a half-smile.
Wax crayon and watercolour 2010
Archaeological contexts can reveal rich material that we must learn to understand. Drawing is a way of becoming acquainted with the forms and details. It is a way of thinking through the material and tracing it to memory. This is a study of a Neolithic axe, whose stone is sourced from a Neolithic quarry in the Langdales, Cumbria. The work formed part of a book ‘Stonework’ (Edmonds and Ferraby 2013) with Professor Mark Edmonds of York University.