Wavepool – What are some broad interests that span your entire practice as an artist?
Dana Stirling – As a photographer, and a person, I am interested in found footage. There is something unique in old images and videos. I enjoy the notion that these images were taken by someone in a different time and place than where I am. When I see an image that I like, it’s an immediate connection. I never have in mind an image that I am looking for, but once I see it, I know it is the one.
I first started collecting old family images from my parents living in London. Looking over the images I realized that many of the faces and people are unfamiliar to me, strangers. I was intrigued by the idea that I can create a new history and album out of images that are on the one hand truly my family album, but are so detached from me that I can recreate the story behind them. I started to appropriate them to my own work, and treat them as if they are my images that I myself photographed. The images become objects that I use in order to create a new history and memory of my own people and places, as I would like to remember and understand them.
Wavepool – In your project Cache, is there any sort of hierarchy or are all images treated equally?
Dana Stirling – When I created Cache I started with photographing almost anything that made me stop and think about my history, home and family. After a year of shooting and collecting old images, I started to think of the end result – my undergraduate show. I decided to create, in addition to the selected printed images, a book. In the book, as well as in the exhibition, there were no captions or titles and all of the images stood together. There was no real way to know if an image was mine, or a family photo I appropriated; so in that regards all of the images stand together, they all are important as they are all needed to tell the story.
Wavepool – I like the idea of a storage system that is always being updated, as hinted at in the dictionary definition of ‘cache’. Is this a project that will ever be complete?
Dana Stirling – My family roots back to London, but I was born in Israel. I was a child on the fence; struggling with a family that never really became a part of the Israeli culture, which I myself felt I only half belonged to. I used to hear stories from London and my parents’ memories. The stories held onto a time and culture that I wasn’t apart of.
When I started my BA in photography, I started to search my history and the idea of those lost “Happier Days”. As I searched I realized that this is not my past. Cache is a place to store and contain. The project is my treasure; my way to reclaim what was lost or hidden by creating my own memories based on what is real. This project may never be solved, as it is a part of my life, my work today and the way I look at photography.
Wavepool – On your website, you display Cache and Anonymous Family as separate sections, but the two series also mix in a book. How do they fit together? Do you prefer that they function individually or that they coexist?
Dana Stirling – Anonymous Family was a project I made in the second year of school. This project was the first time I actually started to work with found footage of my family, and the first time that I realized that all I do in life and the reasons I photograph still life the way I do, is based on my family and my upbringing. That project was hard to create as I manipulated the images, broke them down and in a way violated their “ora”. As I worked on that project I started to feel more and more removed from the images, which made it even harder. As I progressed in my work, I started to create Cache. Cache is in some way a continuation of Anonymous Family, only that in Cache I started combining found images and my own photographs. The combination created a new tension in the work. I felt that some images could pass through the projects such as Happier Days diptych, because they where a direct extension and they added to the general idea that I tried to create in Cache. I believe that these projects may meet every once in a while. Since all of my work is based on the idea of family albums and memories, images can be relevant if the context allows it.
Wavepool – Is your new work a continuation of existing projects or are you moving toward something else?
Dana Stirling – My new work now in my MFA at the School of Visual Arts is a continuation of Cache in some way. My new project is taking a step forward in my search and investigation of imagery and family. In my new work, I am working on creating a history that is made up. I try to investigate a place that doesn’t exist and a family that I create. Using found footage from flea markets, found footage of my family, documents, 8mm videos and photographs I shoot; I am inventing my history, life and memories. By recreating a history, that is not bound to any truth, I am liberated to be who I want to be, and create memories truly in the way I believe they should look like.
Wavepool – What artists have influenced your work?
Dana Stirling – A great inspiration to me is the photographer Takashi Yasumura. In his work Domestic Scandals he captured objects and still life at his parents’ home, where traditional decorations and aesthetics are juxtaposed with the modern western world. Yasumura is able to capture a delicate moment, sometimes people will see it as an unimportant moment or object, and make it represent a history, culture, and family. His images were a great inspiration for me when I was photographing my old grandparents’ home. The house started to empty, and all that was left was an odd object that didn’t necessarily mean anything specific, but with photography I was able to experience my childhood and recreate the feeling of this home.
To see more, please visit Dana’s website.