the methods of Visible Mending

I’ve just been browsing through the book Visible Mending: Everyday Repairs in the South West by Steven Bond, Caitlin DeSilvey and James Ryan.  It was published by Uniformbooks earlier this year and is the result of a research project exploring workplaces in the south west of England where people repair things.


The book is beautifully designed and produced and full of Steven Bond’s fantastic photographs, which linger on the objects and spaces and light of the workplaces the research team visited.  As Caitlin and James say in their essay that concludes the book, the photographs really do focus attention on the richly textured materialities of these places, and suggest the intimate relations between them and the people who work there, even though very few of the photographs picture people.

That concluding essay is also ponders nicely on the use of photographs in the research project: how they were taken and what was done with them.  I particularly like the reflection on the materiality of the photographs in the exhibitions that Steven, Caitlin and James curated.  They note that the photos seemed to sort themselves into thematic groups, and the researchers went with that clustering, and also decided to print the photos on small metal sheets that could be picked up from the tiny shelves on which they rested in the gallery and held and explored (how does a photo get printed on to aluminium?); the essay also explores the different forms of text that accompany the photographs, in the book, in the guide to the exhibitions and on the project’s blog.  There’s a strong sense of the academic craft in all this, of methods as labour and work.  Lovely.

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