Several artists have incorporated text into their images, either directly as part of the artwork itself, or as something supplemental. I found Kurt Schwitters Dadaist work appealing. Miss Blanche, I feel, is particularly aesthetically pleasing. (See ‘Text messages’).
Work on the images for Jo-Ana has continued, mainly focusing on how to present the diary extracts upon which the project is based. This aspect of the project’s development has become all consuming.
How do we present text in an image? How do we present text when the text itself is the subject of the image?
Several alternatives have been tried (see ‘Evolution’). In short, though, all these options can be ruled out for very valid reasons, leaving just two possible options for presentation.
First, a square on, evenly lit photograph of the diary page alone.
Second, a still life image composition containing the appropriate diary extract together with various personal effects of the diarist.
The former, I believe, is an overly formal type of presentation most suited to an academic study. It is, I feel, boring and staid. More importantly, though, Jo-Ana is not a series of images about an illness called anorexia. It is, however, a series of images about a girl called Jo who happens to suffer from anorexia before going on to recover.
It is absolutely essential that Jo’s personality is represented in the images. This is Jo’s project as much as it is mine, if not more so. Without Jo’s story, and her willingness to share it, there would be no project.
Strip away the context, strip away the personal effects and the images become devoid of the person, rendering it anonymous. Jo-Ana without the Jo becomes Ana, and we have made one person’s account say nothing about that person, excluding them to focus solely on an illness which has already taken so much.
Including everyday objects is to include the person and the personality. It also gives the viewing audience images which are not only easier to read, but which brings them into Jo’s world. Images which break down the fourth wall. Images which are real because they contain objects which are used by Jo, objects which they probably use or see being used every day. To the viewer, these items bring additional interest. For those with less visual literacy, these everyday objects provide a connection between the artist and the audience via the artwork.
See also: ‘One Man’s Meat …’