Fine Art Photography Daily

Louis Porter:The Small Conflict Archive

Louis Porter is a little like a novelist who looks at the urban landscape for clues to weave together into stories. He has been photographing those clues and categorizing them into an collection titled The Small Conflict Archive.  They are humorous in their simplicity and telling in the small narratives that they create. Louis a British born photographer who currently lives and works in Melbourne.  His work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally. He has published books with independent publishers in Australia, France and England and been included in the photographic compendiums Hijacked II (Big City Press) and The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Fine Art Photography (Humble Arts). He recently established his own publishing imprint, Twenty Shelves.
The Small Conflict Archive 
The Small Conflict Archive is a collection of fragments, markers and traces of a minor conflict, which can be easily found on the surface of any modern town or city. These are not the conflicts that make the evening news: the protracted wars, acts of terrorism, murders and kidnappings. Instead, The Small Conflict Archive contains evidence of perforations, in what might be considered a typical day. What constitutes a perforation is diverse and subjective: it might be a broken key, some discriminatory graffiti or even a spilt carton of milk. What unifies the objects and photographs in the archive is their ubiquity; the archive is first and foremost a collection of familiar things.
What the Small Conflict Archive proposes, is that the material aspects of urban space, should not be considered as merely functional, aesthetic or unwanted, but also as symbolic and potentially empathetic devices. The objects and photographs collected for the archive, have been sifted from the soil of the everyday and although some of them standout more than others, they have all sat undisturbed, waiting to be collected or photographed. It is from the prosaic remnants of daily life that archeologists build our understanding of the past. But for the Small Conflict Archive, it is these very remnants that we can also construct our understanding of the present.
Bad Driving

On any given day, countless pieces of street furniture have their utilitarian roles abruptly brought into question by careless driving, and it is the results of these minor mishaps that are the subject of Bad Driving. As a foot passenger in life I have always been acutely aware of the impact of cars on the urban environment. Sometimes I wonder for whose benefit many cities have been built, its citizens or its cars. These points of impact, the twisted poles and buckled signs, become selfreferencing historical markers, that sink into the surface of the city, becoming almost invisible.

Crap Paint Jobs

The series of photographs depicting Crap Paint Jobs, like the majority of the sections in the archive, portrays the remnants of an event, the protagonist of which is no longer present. In its practical manifestation, painting an object, particularly one in a public space, is by its very nature an act engaged in aesthetic harmony. The object is painted to either fit in with its environment, or (especially in commercial settings) stand out.  

Two extremes of environment come to mind, the historic centre of a European city, where the way a thing is painted might be legislated in order to maintain a sense of cultural authenticity and an outer suburban shopping complex, where almost identical prefabricated concrete boxes, are painted wildly different colours, in order to differentiate themselves from one another. In either example, if the paintjob is done rather badly, the overall tone of the surrounding area is called into question. 

Crap things tend to multiply and travel in packs. If the previous painter has done a terrible job, the standard required by the next painter to do a reasonable job lowers. Although the suggestion is not that a poorly painted lamp post can set in motion a chain of events, that lead to the collapse of a civilization, its contribution to a sense of urban decline is a subject of great interest to The Small Conflict Archive.

Signs of a Struggle

Like many of the sets in the Small Conflict Archive, Signs of a Struggle began with a single visual encounter that set in motion a series of thoughts. Seeing a spilt paint can at the base of a small hill in suburbia, I wondered what events had led up to the incident and what had resulted from it. This paint can was, I decided, evidence of a moment of a minor conflict in life. Perhaps it was the “straw that broke the camels back”, perhaps later that day the owner decided not to paint the fence after all, perhaps that was for the best. 

I decided to search out more of these tell tale signs. Signs of a Struggle, therefore searches out and collects the traces of accidents, mishaps, disagreements and other deviations in the smooth running of life. There is naturally a large amount of conjecture in any such exercise, as it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of how a spade was broken or a pot of paint spilt. This series and the archive as a whole, should therefore be considered more a musing on the symbolic nature of objects, than a series of confirmed and catalogued facts.

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