In conversation with Nicholas McElroy and Sinéad Charbonneau
Nicholas McElroy: Looking at your work, one can’t help but think—especially if you look at it chronologically, as it’s arranged on your website—that you see Sinéad, and your relationship, grow up. The photos trace a narrative arc. I don’t know if it’s voyeuristic interest, or the viewer’s tendency to narrativize and create a story, but I wonder how you relate to those models of seeing the work. When you think about these photos, do you feel that there’s a bigger project about your shared life, one that’s grown out of the duration over which you’ve been photographing and being photographed?
Sinéad Charbonneau: Something that’s difficult for me is that as much as they’re images of intimacy, they were also felt moments of intimacy for me. I can isolate them in the way that I isolate memories, but I can’t separate them from the way that I feel about my relationship overall. For viewers, the photos might be read as isolated moments in time to build a narrative, but experientially the moments aren’t linear or isolated.
One of the strange ways that Ali’s photographs have become a larger project is how they affect my own memory. The things that are represented in his photographs become my memory of that thing, which is not an unusual way to engage with memory, and is probably something that’s true for many of us with our childhoods. I have the unique experience of having my life continually represented, and that is a very rich experience to have, but it also shapes the way that I remember. In that way it’s hard not to view the process as both producing some deficiencies in my own memories and enhancing them. I definitely could see it as a project, and I could be entranced by watching someone else over time.
I love any sort of longevity project—even seeing a street that I’ve never been on “now” and “then,” or a street that I have been on—those kinds of experiences and images touch on something so complex. They touch on the time that’s elapsed between two moments, what is totally and fundamentally unseeable, and also what transformations are seeable. But it’s harder to stand outside of experience when it’s your own life. Describing the totality of Ali’s photos as a “project” seems a bit creepy and makes me feel like I’m living in The Truman Show.
Ali Bosworth: Whenever quantity and duration intersect in photographs there must be something happening within that, but maybe it’s a project in itself to draw it out, and I struggle with identifying or naming that element within my own photos. It’s something I think about though, even outside of the specific subject of Sinéad, or our life together. I find it hard to represent the “whole” of whatever it is with a tiny subset. I often feel like I haven’t fully resolved how to summarize it all, either in words or with photos, especially when doing something like putting together images for a proposal or submission. It seems that so often there is an emphasis on photos being project-based, to the point that they lack meaning if they aren’t.
Full interview in Issue Three, which you can purchase here.