In his short book written about the essence of photography and as eulogy to the author’s late mother titled Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes treats photographers as “agents of death” (Barthes, 92). Barthes is drawing attention to a contradiction that a photograph both “produces death while trying to preserve life”. Photographs grant the ability to preserve memories, a seemingly paradoxical relationship. Heightened through the use of film, this quotation takes on a new meaning as a result of the medium’s ability to create tangible objects. The analog substrate is physical and, like the subject burned into its light sensitive outer layer, can die. This fundamental aspect, found in analogue photography, results in images that are both symbolic of death and monuments for the future.
Containing thirty 4x5 negatives that have been placed between two sheets of glass, Joy and Sorrow functions as a time capsule - preserving and immortalizing its subjects. Each negative presents anonymous faces that have been cropped to the individuals main facial features and are unified through the use of black and white negative film.
Dear Departed draws attention to the medium by highlighting its close connection with themes of mortality, vulnerability and fetishization.