If I had a pristine photograph of Tim Walker's "Circa 1978" I would be content. Unfortunately, two tears inhabit the bottom and the post office's magenta scan runs through the left side. That's the beauty of a postcard though - never quite knowing how it will arrive. Despite it's imperfect condition, I remain enamored with this small landscape. I was really pleased Tim agreed to answer some questions, putting to rest some of the ambiguity that I wanted to resolve from the moment it appeared in my post office box eight months ago.
Jacinda Russell: You've sent one of the most compelling postcards throughout my brief participation in the Postcard Collective. It is one of my favorites because of the mysterious location. I can read so much into it but if you don't mind, I'd love to hear the story behind its creation.
Tim Walker: Let me first say that I feel the most successful platform for visual images in my mind is the middle ground between maker and viewer. This middle ground is an area where each viewer brings something from his or her experience to the viewing of the image. It’s not meant to be strictly ambiguous, but it’s not didactic either. So I appreciate the “reading into” observation.
As for it’s creation, what I will say that as someone who makes images using a camera it soon became clear to me that ideas of location and narrative are not inherent in images. I’m not sure if this idea is something that is a priori for most, but for me it was a meaningful epiphany.
A long time ago I read a review of the movie Brazil. The review took great lengths to describe how Brazil was a state of mind. I like the idea that an image or a piece of artwork can have literal trappings, but represent a state of mind.
JR: "Circa 1978" is written in a large font and "perhaps" runs up and down the far left side. The latter is so inconspicuous that it might not be noticeable with the post office barcode printed alongside of it. What does "Circa 1978" have to do with the photograph and why "perhaps..." thirty-three years later?
TW: I’m fascinated by how slippery memory is. How our memory exists for own purposes and not in any way to aid “Truth”. I’m also fascinated for some reason by those years in the ’70s. For some reason they represent a time that is real history to me as opposed to thinking about historical events in other eras like the ’60’s or WWII, where they seem less like history and more like a movie, perhaps because of my own proximity to that time period.
“Circa 1978” is certainly a nod to these feelings of history and memory. “Perhaps…” is the wink to the slippery value of both, and to the idea of a state of mind.
JR: It's an escapist image of a blurry sea with some running along the horizon. I'm reminded of Gerhard Richter paintings or Uta Barthe photographs. Did you have any influences when making this piece?
TW: That’s an interesting observation. I remember seeing a Ute Barthe show in the ‘90s and was very struck by the blurry images, but I’m sure I would say a direct influence. Gerhard Richter however, I would say yes. His 100 Pictures book is a favorite of mine. I have been spending time recently looking at Richter’s books, especially his Baader-Meinhof book.
JR: You live in Tucson. I lived in Tucson. I loved the desert but spent a great deal of time turning the land into the sea on the distant horizon. It's a place that screams of an ocean that once was. What's your relationship to the desert and does it have anything to do with this image?
TW: I didn’t grow up in the desert. I grew up in Minnesota, a land ripe with lakes and water. I always joked that water wasn’t my natural habitat, but now as I’ve lived in the desert for a while I’ve been rethinking that. I share your pull to the horizon. I lived on the Pacific Ocean for a spell and was completely fascinated by the completeness of the horizon. The horizon is definitely a key element of that image for me.
JR: Is this postcard an anomaly in your oeuvre? What are you working on right now?
TW: I wouldn’t say that it is an anomaly in the sense that it pokes at the ideas of history and memory as mentioned above, but I would say that it is different in the sense that it is less representational that most of my images are.