Bridget Murphy Milligan | Fireside Tales – Ambrotypes
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Fireside Tales | Ambrotypes

A convergence of Fact and Fiction

One of the oldest art forms, storytelling is both collective and ephemeral. It embraces everything from rumors, jokes, gossip around the kitchen table, to stories once told around the fireside. In oral tradition, the life of a story undergoes multiple adaptations, and with technology constantly reinventing the way we communicate and interact, what will become of traditional experiences? While communication has been transformed by the interactive electronic culture of visual and mobile devices, what constitutes “the real” is now in question. An illusion becomes truth when it is believable and a truth becomes irrelevant without interpretation. Fireside Tales embraces both the factual and fictional anchors that define photography today. It is a visual portrayal that examines and preserves the tradition of Irish storytelling. Together the images recreate popular stories of faith, mystery, myth, humor, history, and fairy legends. My hope is to generate contemporary folklore retellings that reveal a convergence of factual places and fictional narratives.

 

Fireside Tales consists of two photographic interpretations, a collection of digital images and ambrotypes that combine photographs taken while traveling in Ireland and scanned drawings, paintings, and pages from antique storybooks. They are divided into two worlds; the factual depictions of ruins, monastic sites, rocks, bogs, fields, fences, and seaside cliffs, places that once inspired these tales. The shadows, simple animal and figurative renderings represent stock characters and common archetypes in Irish folklore, twist reality into a fantasy. They transport the images into a re-imagined existence, transparent silhouettes of the real, fading in and out of being, like ghosts or memories.

 

Contrasting one of photography’s oldest photographic processes, wet-plate collodion with the latest technological image-making methods symbolizes the lasting impact these spoken Irish tales have had on society and communication, from the 19th century to today. And yet, it also eludes to the idea that storytelling itself is transient and possibly vanishing because of modern technological trends. Which leads me to the question, what effect has technology had on traditional and oral storytelling?