The Cousins and Neighbours
“The Cousins”; US intelligence agents
“Neighbours”; Soviet intelligence agents
For his series of Cold War novels, British author John le Carré invented a spy-world lexicon. While his works are fiction, le Carré based his tales on reality.
This series was produced from a historic archive of negatives acquired through an online marketplace. The photographer, sitters, and location (likely in the US), are unknown. Based on fashions, I believe them to be from the 1950 / 60’s – height of the Cold War era.
Identity of the sitters, and context of the portraits has been lost. These individuals are phantoms roaming the earth. Lost portraits are reduced to signs –– simply a representation of a people, at a certain time in history.
While viewing the archive, roles began to form for these faces of the Cold War. Together they have become a cast of characters from the shadows of espionage.
Final works are traditional silver prints enlarged from the original large format negatives in a wet darkroom. While printing, the surface of the unprocessed photographic paper is masked. Developer is applied in stages while the mask is removed, revealing a process of viscosity and chemical reaction, (a historic photographica becoming lost with time), while clouding the visual identity of the sitters. These are not clear views of those from the past, but views through an erosion of knowledge. Views of those who have taken a new role in the theatre of my mind.