Odette England is an artist and researcher based in America.
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Episode 40: Odette England is a researcher and artist. Her work explores many different avenues from memory to family and landscape as a proposition for social commentary. Her archival work is the culmination of years of study of the vernacular photographic form.
Odette has recently published a book called Keeper of the Hearth: Picturing Roland Barthes’ Unseen photograph with Schilt Publishing based on her project Winter Garden Photograph Project which explores, in collaborative form, the idea of Barthes most famous non-photograph in his book Camera Lucida. Much debate has been made about Barthes idea of this particular image of his mother. The heavy impact of his language on the many readers of Camera Lucida cannot be discounted. Barthes as a proponent for the notion of the idea of the death of the author places his articulate mourning dialogue within the pages of Camera Lucida in an attempt to describe everything that photography fails at in one sense and what it exceeds at in another. He is asking the reader to understand his position and his reading of the perhaps real or perhaps imagined photograph of his mother and to attach their own sentiment and illustration to the unseen image. This, given Barthes own ideas about language and literature creates a conundrum and reminds the reader of the failure of photography to transcribe meaning outside of the self in representational form.
England has asked artists, curators and writers to respond to Barthes book and his Winter Garden photograph. The results are at times surreal and without seemingly direct correlation to Barthes and in other places in the book are exampled by images of motherhood, vernacular imagery and hazy and reluctant images of landscape and place which feel at home with the concept of the Winter Garden photograph. England has taken on quite a challenge to work with nearly 300 artists for her project. The results are incredible and do indeed remind the reader of the importance of Barthes blue slim volume of thought about photography, mourning and his mother.