Image from James Luckett’s series “The Dog, The Pond, The Foundation, The Boy, The Crystalline Forest and The House,” which is featured in the forthcoming book “Unpacked Box.” (Image by James Luckett)

‘Unpacked Box’ to Examine Crucial Essence of Discarded Images

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It’s 2018, and nearly everyone has an archive of thousands of photos on their smartphone that no one ever sees the moment after they’re snapped. They’re blurry, out of focus, unflattering, poorly lit, or maybe even taken entirely by mistake – who doesn’t have a few dozen inexplicable photos of the unlit depth of their purse or backpack somewhere in their photo library?

For professional photographers, the issue of the discarded image is much more real – every photographer has oodles of pictures they are proud of, and oodles more they took in the painstaking process of finding those pictures.

This fall, artist Daniel King will tackle the concept of the discarded image in depth in Unpacked Box, a forthcoming book which features yet-to-be-published work by artists Rebecca Holbrook-Erhart (Chicago, IL) and James Luckett (Yellow Springs, OH), as well as an in-depth response to those images entitled Haunted Archives and Shadow Projects by former Ohio University professor Ray Klimek (Highland Park, NJ).

“Daniel (King) was a student of mine and as a result of working in the context of Ohio University’s graduate photo department, we remained interested in each other’s work afterwards,” said Klimek. “With Unpacked Box there’s this whole underlying concept of the archive that strikes me as very important and intriguing, especially in the context of modern photography. There is such a wide variety of archives: institutional archives, as well as personal archives that photographers seem to generate as a matter of course.”

An image from artist Rebecca Holbrook-Erhart’s Hidden Archive series in the forthcoming book, Unpacked Box. (Image by Rebecca Holbrook-Erhart)

Holbrook-Erhart’s contribution, Hidden Archives, is made up of images of basically the same shot, taken from the front window of her parent’s home over the course of months and seasons as Holbrook worked her way through crafting a book entitled The Promise, a project that had her living and working about 125 miles away from her hometown.

The Promise is a large book made up of a mix of text and photographs, and came about when my grandfather passed away. The book is the telling of the story of his passing and travelling through the region remembering what he meant to my family. It’s about my family’s grieving and coping and the concept of coping with losing family,” said Holbrook-Erhart.

Around the time that Holbrook-Erhart was wrapping up her work on The Promise, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, prompting Holbrook-Erhart to begin making frequent trips back home to visit her parents.

Another image from Rebecca Holbrook-Erhart’s Hidden Archive series. (Image by Rebecca Holbrook-Erhart)

“The images in Unpacked Box are images that I would take during those trips home, in between when I was working on other projects and as my mother was sick,” she said. “They are images that live within another story, and they are images I never really intended for anyone else to see. As individual images I don’t think they are very compelling, but when you look at them in a sequence, they tell a story about the passing of seasons and the passing of time, and they are an archive of a particular moment I was going through.”

Klimek said Holbrook-Erhart’s contribution to Unpacked Box serves as an “interesting contemplation of how our minds work.”

“Her photos seem to document a state of tension, which makes sense because at the time her mother was sick, and she was waiting to hear news about her mother. There’s something really casual about her images, yet they have this really emotional sense embedded in them,” said Klimek. “You can feel the tension of waiting and looking at these things that are entirely mundane in some ways but in other ways take on this very emotional charge.”

Luckett’s contribution, a series of 14 digital photographs entitled The Dog, The Pond, The Foundation, The Boy, The Crystalline Forest and The House, were taken in Eberwhite Woods in Ann Arbor, MI from 2006 to 2007. The images were taken after Luckett and his wife moved to a Midwestern town she had taken a job in after living in Tokyo for six years.

Image from James Luckett’s series “The Dog, The Pond, The Foundation, The Boy, The Crystalline Forest and The House.” (Image by James Luckett)

“To add to the disorientation, our marriage was dissolving too,” writes Luckett in his artist’s statement. “Unemployed, culture shocked and heartsick, I spent those fall and winter mornings haunting a small forest preserve of native oak and hickory trees near our new home.”

As the title of the contribution aptly suggests, the images document a dog, a pound, a crumbling foundation of an abandoned house, a forest in winter, and a house.

“James Luckett’s contribution had the longest title, which reminded me of a fairy tale, and the more I started to look at his images, the more they seemed to fit into those conventions to me,” said Klimek. “(Luckett) wrote in his statement that he wasn’t sure where the images were going or what they were really saying, so I started to see them as creating this sort of very strange fairy tale kind of atmosphere that is so sharply in focus and technically proficient that it all seems a little unreal. I think all of this works together to create something that even artist is unaware of, and I think that’s a great demonstration of what Unpacked Box is all about.”

“Unpacked Box” is gathering funds for publication via a crowdfunding campaign, which can be found at this link. Listen to WOUB’s interview with the artist organizing the project, Daniel King, above.