“I explore what happens in between history and memory, where fact and fiction becomes a muddled, ambiguous entity” – AN INTERVIEW WITH JACOB RAUPACH by Sarah Pannell (Coordinator, Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive)

For our first instalment of APPA Interviews, it’s been a pleasure to talk to Australian photo artist Jacob Raupach – the winner of APPA’s 2013 Student Photobook Award, about his work and his approach to the medium of photography and publishing. Jacob (b. 1990) is based in the regional centre of Wagga, NSW and works primarily in the mediums of photography and artist books, following his studies at Charles Sturt University where he completed his Honours in Visual and Performing Arts.
Here at the Archive, we were quite taken by Jacob’s photobook submission, Radiata and we are very excited to be exhibiting his work this coming month at Colour Factory Gallery in Melbourne.
Asia Pacific Photobook Archive’s Coordinator Sarah Pannell spoke to Jacob about his process in working with found imagery, the format of newsprint and his future projects.
SP: Where did you study, and was photobooks something you were introduced to at university/school?
JR: I studied both my BA (Photography) and BA (Honours) at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW. Whilst photobooks weren’t discussed as their own particular subject, I was lucky enough to be introduced to them briefly via a subject called Art & Books. I had a particularly great lecturer whose interest extended beyond artist’s books and she was instrumental in my continued interest in the book arts. Beyond that particular subject, I spent a large amount of time in the library, where I was exposed to a great collection of photo books that were influential to my understanding of the medium. I learnt about the greats like Evans, Frank, Shore, Eggleston, etc, but also uncovered some more obscure titles by people like Ralph Eugene Meatyard and John Gossage that have been instrumental towards my opinions of and relationship to the photo book.
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SP: Your work is documentary but engages with found images – how did that come about? Have you worked with found images in previous projects?
JR: Whilst working on a related project, The Alpine Way, I became concerned by ways to present both past and present in an invisible dialogue. The Alpine Way was approached as documentary grounded in the present, yet I wanted to better understand photography’s role in shaping past histories and memories. The answer presented itself as Radiata, a collection of found images exploring a 1980’s timber boom, which operated in direct relation to the actual present of The Alpine Way. These works were my way of pushing against what I saw as documentary’s role in presenting one singular, historical truth. Rather, I wanted to explore what happened in between history and memory, where fact and fiction become a muddled, ambiguous entity. Radiata was my first investigation into using found imagery as material and what I found most useful was the complete freedom I felt in using images that I had no prior connection too. This became extremely beneficial, not only in relation to those previous questions of history and memory, but also in the actual sequencing and creation of narrative in the book itself.
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SP: What are the differences between working with found images and making your own photographs?
JR: With found images I’ve discovered a certain sense of freedom and malleability that I haven’t with my own images. Often I think that I carry too much of a prior relationship to my own work, which in turn affects the way I both view and ultimately end up presenting it. Using found imagery both alleviates this problem and presents an answer in regards to further distancing actuality and truth from our experiences. They operate as a space removed from the actual event, allowing for a greater exploration of the middle ground between truth and fiction. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.47.26 PM SP: What has the response been locally to the Radiata work?
JR: In my small community of peers the response has been great and I’ve had some really nice, encouraging feedback and interest in the book. However, the general public’s relationship to the book has been somewhat different as the first experience was in a gallery context alongside photographs from The Alpine Way. I found that most people are generally reluctant to pick up a book in a gallery, let alone tamper with a neatly stacked pile of newspapers so this presented some issues in terms of getting people to interact and take home a copy of the work. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.48.17 PM SP: Why a newspaper publication? How does this printed format behave differently to other types of photobooks?

JR: For this particular project using the format of a newspaper just felt right. Despite the fact that these photographs came from a newspaper themselves, I was more interested in the way the actual newspaper itself functions towards our particular ideas of truth, memory and history. I took my own experience of trawling through newspapers because of their perceived truth-value, and transposed that into a new artifact. I imagined the newspaper being discovered in thirty or forty years, far displaced from it’s original context, prompting the reader to muse upon it’s origins and in turn creating a greater rift from its from its original intention. I also found a specific significance in the materiality of newsprint; the ephemeral nature of it somehow seemed appropriate as a reference towards my thoughts on the great unaccountability and malleable nature of history and memory Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.47.15 PM   SP: Can you describe further the current social/economic situation in the places you dealt with in Radiata? JR: The current state of the Tumut Shire is an interesting juxtaposition of industrial prosperity and post-industrial ruin. Tumut itself houses a stable forestry industry which exists as it’s main employer with a variety of secondary industries that support other community members not directly related to forestry. However, other outlying towns have felt the pressure as we shift further away from industry and towards information. There has been a clear struggle and the post-industrial fallout of major companies is widely visible in the cultural landscape of these towns. This offers a particularly jarring experience when travelling from town to town and prosperity becomes seemingly localized in remote, regional areas. What I’ve also found particularly fascinating about this area is the harsh contradictory relationship the locals seem to share with the natural landscape. The state forests and man-made waterways function as both commodity and leisure, with the people seeming to view and shift between work as both labour and recreation. Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.16.37 AM SP: What is your next/current project? JR: Currently, I’m still working in the Tumut Shire towards better understandingthe social and economic relationship that exists with the natural landscape. At the moment I’m working towards two exhibitions in the next few months that will be utilizing both my own imagery and found images/ephemera in book form as well as video and cast/found objects. These works are still genuinely engaged with resource-based industry and I’m attempting to trace lineages between early mining and current economic situations, grounded by questions about objects and imagery and their affect upon our memories of particular places and their histories. Essentially, I’m forever trying to answer the same questions but now I’m just exploring new mediums that have a greater transitory quality than the photograph.   _MG_9049   Jacob’s exhibition As Good As Gold opens this Thursday 3rd April, 2014 at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy. 409 Gore Street, Fitzroy. Exhibition dates: April 3-26 Gallery hours: M-F 11-5 & Sat 1-4

A new edition of Jacob’s book will be on sale during the exhibition.
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