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People / Portraits & Places

Jonathan and Katherine Van der Werff at Home in London, May 2010 - from The George Richmond Portrait Project

Hi! My name is Elly Clarke and I’m honoured to be one of the artists making new work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of Camden as it is today. Entitled Camden Encounters, my project involves inviting people who live and work in Camden to tell me (and take me to the locations of) their sticky memories: those memories that you brush against (or which brush against you) every time you pass through that area… More about this later… For now, I’ve been asked to give a little intro to myself, and to write about a few projects I’ve done before that are of relevance to this new work I’ll be making over the next few months.

My background includes a first class degree in History of Art (Leeds, 1998), a Masters in Fine Art (Central Saint Martins, 2003), a year of study on the curating course at the Royal College of Art and nearly two decades of professional experience in industries that range from museum audio tour script writing to retail design, dot com start ups in New York and London to running a gallery in Berlin and lecturing in higher educational institutions in the UK and abroad.

As an artist and photographer my practice is varied but linked by a longstanding and un-shifting interest in the changing place of the physical object and body in our increasingly digitally mediated and experienced world. I work with photography (analogue and digital, including screen grabs and mobile phone pictures), drawing, performance, slide shows, music, writing, curatorial, selling and participatory projects. The three projects of most relevance to this Camden commission are The Broadway House Photo Project (2002-3), the George Richmond Portrait Project (2008-ongoing) and Half Crowns in their Petticoats (2013).

1. The Broadway House Photo Project, 2002-3

Mouse Eye View by Norman, from The Broadway House Photo Project, 2002-3

For The Broadway House Photo Project I invited my neighbours to take three photos each, with a (pre-cameraphone era) 35mm disposable camera, from and inside their homes in order to see the same views from multiple perspectives. Collectively it formed a kind of self-made portrait of a community (and a building). It also gave me the excuse to get to know my neighbours and for them to get to meet each other. With funding from the Tenants & Residents Association, an exhibition of the photographs took place in a gallery up the road.

2. The George Richmond Portrait Project, 2009-ongoing

Jonathan and Katherine Van der Werff, at home, London, May 2010

hereThe George Richmond Portrait Project involves my researching and tracing privately owned ancestral portraits by my great-great-great grandfather George Richmond RA (1809-1896) to the same families that commissioned them, in order to photograph the portraits in situ and their current guardians (descendants of those my ancestor portrayed) in a location of their choice in their homes. I am also recording audio of my participants talking about their ancestors and their portraits.

3. Half Crowns in their Petticoats, 2013

And finally, Half Crowns in their Petticoats was a commission I was invited to make in response to the first public reopening of the former headquarters of Birmingham’s Municipal Bank since it closed more than two decades ago. For this, I invited former employees of the bank to enter the cavernous building they had once worked in, and to relate their stories about working there. The audio was then installed back in the bank where it was recorded. The full audio set can be heard here or listen to the example below:

Production shot, Half Crowns in their Petticoats, February 2013

I look very much forward to seeing where (and to whom) this next project takes me! | #CamdenEncounters