The reason for stuff staying in the shoebox is often “Who would want to see this?” This is partly because we’re used to the idea that in order for something to be made publicly available, a lot of people need to want to see it. The reason that used to be the case is that it cost something to reproduce and distribute media. That cost has now fallen to practically zero, but our thinking hasn’t quite caught up with that fact.
The work I want to do on this project is not about finding a small number of images or films that will engage thousands of people. It’s about finding thousands of images, each of which might engage a small number of people.
I spoke to Bill Thompson about this, he’s a big cheese in the working out of what to do with the BBC’s huge amount of archive material. He pointed out that most items are going to have little or no value to the majority of people, but for the *right* people, they will be priceless.
Suppose I show you a picture of a party twenty-odd years ago, you vaguely recognise some of the people in the foreground but slowly you realise that the slightly blurred couple on the left are you and the love of your life and what’s captured there is the first few moments you ever saw each other. Now to anyone else, it’s just a picture of some slightly drunk people with a rather strange taste in fashion, but to you and your beloved? It’s *that* moment!
Of course, not every photograph holds images of people who’ve since spent their lives together, but I believe that that sort of value is more common than we usually think. And it’s the kind of effect I hope to find in this work, the sort of value I hope to create for people who see the archive.