The idea for “The unmemorable place” originates from the exhibition “Recollecting Landscapes” (S.M.A.K.-Ugent) and the work of the Belgian Magnum photographer John Vink (° 1948). In 2004 I visited the S.M.A.K. Ghent, the exhibition Recollecting Landscapes Recollecting Landscapes, a re-photography project by Ghent University in which sixty landscape images by the botanist Jean Massart were re-photographed.
In addition to the fascinating analyzes of the landscape transformations in the successive images, I was particularly impressed by the images themselves, which perfectly matched the documentary style of the New Topographics. But where these photographers could still be blamed for some subjectivity in the choice of their subject, camera angle and lighting, this was definitely not the case here.
A little later I discovered the work of John Vink. In 1982-1983 he photographed a series of banal places, petrol stations, chip shops, garages and stations, in Brussels (and surroundings), from special camera angles where poles and road signs were prominent.
The plan was to use his photos as a compulsory program for a new series, trying to approach the same conditions (camera position, sun position, weather, format ...) as 35 years earlier.
However, the photos came without exact address details, making the quest an essential and adventurous aspect of the project. Several locations could only be traced by relying on memory and using historical aerial photographs (Bruciel), telephone directories, old road maps and Google maps, because the buildings or even entire streets simply no longer existed.
The result is a photographic investigation, a series of banal, not memorable places. But which, due to their insignificance, are very dynamic and are now also immortalized and commemorated twice.
There is no judgment, nor a nostalgic look back. Rather the emphasis is placed on the existence of this place.
According to George Berkeley (1685-1753), material things do not exist until they have been observed (Esse est percipi). Does a rainbow exist if there is no human, animal or camera to perceive it? Does a place exist if it has never been archived or documented?
Probably... But I still err on the side of caution.
The series of John Vink from 1982-1983 can be found here!
Durst Lambda-print on Kodak Endura Paper,500x400 mm, private collection | © Peter Chinitor | Zazourian 2020