The act of photographing the same place at different points in time is referred to as rephotography. It is particularly associated with the Rephotographic Survey project that was conceived by the American photographer Mark Klett. Klett’s project was ambitious as he and a team of photographers retraced the steps of the nineteenth century government survey team that had photographed the grand landscapes of the American West. Time was sandwiched between two images, one taken in the past and one in the present.
In Geoff Crossley's picture two photographs occupy the same space. He has combined the rephotography of place with the act of rephotographing a photograph. In his combined image a shorter period of time has passed and the scene is on a domestic scale. An old snapshot is laid over the top of a newer photograph of a family house. In the smaller snapshot a man and woman stand on a staircase. They are in front of a wall of floral pattern and in front of them stands a decorated Christmas tree. This is a landscape of their own making. The snapshot is faded, as though it is losing its vitality. We are uncertain when this photograph was taken but the feeling is that these people, like the Christmas and its tree have passed on.
Crossley inserts the snapshot into a larger photograph that we assume was taken more recently. Time is sliced and then rejoined. In this newer photograph we note that the floral wallpaper on the stairwell has gone leaving a plain wall. But from behind the Christmas tree in the older photograph a living plant peeks out. In the new photograph we look towards the open door at the back to a green garden; in the old snapshot our attention is directed up the stairwell towards heaven.
Photographs, like ourselves, can be haunted by the past. Seeing the two photographs combined we are aware of what has changed. The man and woman have become ghosts in their own house. Their presence revealed by the collision of these two photographic slices. The snapshot is no longer lost in the past but reunited with the present resuscitated by new light and new life.
Stephen Clarke is an artist, writer, and lecturer based in the North West of England.