At my mothers death I inherited photographs and letters which pointed to an interesting family history and I discovered that my grandfather, Leopoldo Savignac, had been a photographer in the Basque area of Spain. At the works centre are the memories of life in Basque Spain in the 1930s embedded in particular stories passed down to me by my mother. There is a potential detective story here as my mother is invisible in this history because she is illegitimate. There is a prize-winning photograph of my grandfather’s published in a Basque photographic magazine in 1921 which contains an image of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to my grandmother, who is also invisible in this history as a mistress of the photographer Savignac. Taking this image as a starting point I explore the gaps in the life story, evoking the journey to discover more about my grandfather as a way to explore different narratives. The paper will be a reflection on practice as research and how to theorise methods of making photographic work in response to what I discover, as well as how photographs are taken, made, preserved, archived and written about in different ways (phenomenological, haptic, embodied). Aspects of bringing my writing and image making together will include an imagined conversation, incorporating invisible and unknowable connections between images, archive and text. To go to the archive and study the documents there is to be complicit in the ways in which the information is organized and what it represents. But what is not there is just as interesting… the undocumented women in my family and the extent to which they remain invisible within the historical archival research, as well as the scattered and fragmented status of my grandfather’s photographic practice echoing his own immigrant status.

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Default journal

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School of Art, Design and Architecture


Spanish Civil War, Photography, Memory, Life writing, Immigration, Autoethnography, Archives