Photographing the Textile Collection at The Atkinson

Photographing the Textile Collection at The Atkinson

By: Katie Meadow

I visited The Atkinson archives as part of my Masters in Photography at Manchester Metropolitan University 2015-16. Joanne Chamberlain, The Atkinson’s documentation officer, kindly agreed to show me around the museum and their archives. Jo used her vast knowledge of the objects to share personal unique stories about each artefact.

After my initial tour around the collections, ideas had started to form and I decided I wanted to focus on the textile collection and explore the relationship between memory and it’s triggers, questioning how personal objects become containers for memory. I spent an enjoyable few hours photographing just a small amount of the clothes and belongings stored within the museum. I wanted to use the archive as a starting point, producing a creative response using both photography and creative writing.

My project investigated remembering, loss and forgetting. I used the museum archives to supplement my research on 1930s Southport. I photographed remnants, scraps, stains on dresses, beaded purses, wax flowers, each time focusing on the small details. I became interested in the layers of time left on the clothes, represented by coatings of dust and dirt. I used my experiences within the archives to inspire my writing and provide me with an initial inspiration point.

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I have been documenting the life of a woman, haunted by her memories and transported back to her past. The narrative is fictional, yet inspired by a collection of 19 pocket diaries I bought from a car boot sale in 2014. I inhabited my character, walking in her footsteps, photographing areas of Southport. Merging memories, I left little distinction between the truth and my imagination. I assembled fragments of information, suggested connections but ultimately invited the viewer to become the investigator. I preserved her memories through documentation, recollection and performance.

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I became intrigued by the site of the Garrick theatre, Southport, now a Mecca Bingo Hall. The building was opened on the 19th December 1932, on the exact spot of the old opera house, which burnt down in 1929. With Jo, I visited the building and we were guided through disused rooms, cellars, old staircases and the theatre’s former dressing rooms. Many of these spaces still retain their original Art Deco features. Using my experience of visiting the building, I reimagined the Garrick theatre in it’s heyday and used these descriptions within my own creative writing.

I chose areas within Southport to photograph and provide locations to my story. I walked through these spaces, recording my journey through audio, writing and photographs. My aim was to represent the whispers and echoes of forgotten histories, presenting the shadowy presence of the past and emphasising the silences.

I used my discoveries at The Atkinson, my experiences at the site of the Garrick theatre and my photographs of historic sites in Southport and surrounding areas to construct a fictional story. The project resulted in a publication, entitled “Glass House” and through sponsorship and crowdfunding, I was able to create a small edition of hand bound hardback books.

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Website: Katie Meadow Photography
Email : katiemeadow@outlook.com

Posted on 25 October 2016 under Museum

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