In response to the archival photographs on display in Autograph's exhibition Making Jamaica: Photography from the 1890s , we invited artist Ingrid Pollard to apply her signature hand-tinting technique to five large-scale modern prints created from scans of the original postcards by Valentine & Sons. The exhibition explored how a new image of Jamaica was created through photography in the late nineteenth century, featuring historical photographs, lantern slides and stereocards revealing the carefully constructed representation of this transitional period in Jamaica’s history.
Pollard's artist commission, The Valentine Days, marked the 30th anniversary of her seminal series Pastoral Interludes, a series of five hand-tinted photographs that depict solitary black figures in the rural English countryside, juxtaposing landscape, portraiture and text.
The works Pollard created for the commission were first displayed in Making Jamaica, and together with a sixth work produced during her Light Work artist residency in 2018, are now part of Autograph's collection of photography.
Pollard defines her own work as ‘a social practice concerned with representation, history and landscape with reference to race, difference and the materiality of lens-based media’, often questioning social constructs such as Britishness, or the notion of home and belonging.
Steeped in an ambiguous heritage of Wordsworth and the Romantic Poets, her photographic practice has explored the beauty of the English landscape and coastline, alongside the memories hidden within Britain's history and its relationship to Africa and the Caribbean. Her interest in the layers of history is echoed in the accomplished use of 19th century photographic techniques.
Pollard said of the process creating The Valentine Days commission: "Looking at the images for many hours as I tinted them by hand, I felt caught in the aura of the photographs and identified with the people in them. The process of tinting brings a type of life to the images. I especially enjoyed inspecting the image for what I call the 'escapees', the mysterious faces looking out of the window, those positioned just on the edge of the frame slightly out of focus, the tiny figures in the distance looking back at the photographer, taking part in the moment in their own way. It reminded me of what scholar Laura Marks wrote about loving disappearing images, how one must 'trust that the image is real in the first place to establish a link between the long ago object and the present day spectator'. The intricate, meditative work involved in the technique of tinting forms a historic link to my own earlier tinted works, bringing me closer to them."
Ingrid Pollard was born in Georgetown, Guyana. In the 1980s she was part of a constituency of British artists who championed black creative practice, showcasing her work in group exhibitions such as The Thin Black Line at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1985), D-Max (1987) and Self-Evident (1995), both at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.
In 2007, Pollard was awarded the Leverhulme Fellowship Award. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, and received her doctorate-by-publication from the University of Westminster in 2016. She was a recipient of the BALTIC Artist Award in 2018, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Artists in 2020.
Pollard's work is represented in the collections of Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Cartwright Hall, Bradford, and Arts Council England.
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