Paradise Wavering is a photographic stream of consciousness that travels through lush flora, fauna, and tropical biospheres, exploring the fugitive nature of experience, time, light, and the photographic medium itself.
By interspersing her current photographs with re-photographed vintage source material from her own family archive of 8 mm films and snapshots, Alice Hargrave melds together past and present, while alluding to an uncertain future where environmental angst pervades.
Inspired by the heroic landscapes of early travel photography, vernacular family pictures, and the first color processes such as Autochromes, Hargrave embraces, but also re-contextualizes and reimagines, the clichés of documenting family travels, where photography’s role is to harness the exotic or “Kodachrome” moments. She seeks the sublime in moments on the periphery of daily life, and her liberal, intuitive use of vivid, visceral color inscribes emotion, revealing how photographs literally color memory and perception. Color itself becomes a subject, leaving behind its mood and patina as a shroud.
Alice Hargrave’s resulting curvilinear narrative is fractured, frayed, and stained in color, as are memory and photographic substrates themselves.
Upon my first pass through the book, I felt like I was paging through a travel album from the shelves of David Lynch, or browsing outtake stills from Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio. (This is the Hopi Indian term for “life out of balance”) Hargrave speaks to this sense of imbalance in the interview with Kendra Paitz when discussing the feeling of environmental angst in her work. The printed interview/conversation between Hargrave and Paitz at the conclusion of the book gives the reader great insights into Hargrave’s creative process and influences that informed her work.
The book is presented mainly as a series of her images laid out on alternating or facing pages, with interspersed poems and excerpts. The book section immediately following the main part of the book is an overview of 61 numbered corresponding thumbnail images with titles (the titles were not printed with the images in the main part of the book). This catalog-like summary was initially confusing to me because it unraveled the strength of the anonymous mystery via the sequence and pacing of the book up till that point.
Blue Tide Spiral
But the strength of the book lies in Hargrave’s use of evocative color photos that convey emotional spark and response rather then illustrative depiction. Intentionally blurry images, or grainy images in vivid color raise connotations of memory flashbacks, like a glimpse out the window of a moving car… Where am I going? Have I been here before? This looks familiar…
Gust of Wind
The images are culled from various sources; crossing and intermeshing different times, locations and media. Hargrave’s use of varied photographic printing styles similar to early color autochromes, or cross processed film imparts color casts, and gives a surreal twist to landscape images where one would normally expect to see lush green vegetation, or deep blues ocean vistas. These intentional color conflicts support the visual discord that Hargrave explores throughout the book. The end result is an emotional, intimate exploration of how to catch the fleeting nature of time and memories and how color itself can be a subject, shrouding our memories and perceptions.
ALICE Q. HARGRAVE: PARADISE WAVERING (Daylight Books)
With essay by Allison Grant, interview by Kendra Paitz
Poems by Sandra Binion and Ralph J. Mills Jr.
Two excerpts from Rebecca Solnit’s seminal book A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.