In April of 2009 a family home in rural Vermont burned to the ground. Fifteen months later I walked through the charred foundation and found a family photo album and a box of snapshots that had melted into a dark mass. Locals told me that that after the fire, the family had moved away and what was left there had lain exposed to the snow, rain and heat of several seasons. The object I found was a palimpsest of otherworldly patterns and colors. Nearly all recognizable imagery (the very purpose of snapshots) had dissolved, leaving an intricate visual record of the elements, chaos and loss. 

Slowly, I separated each snapshot from the mass and spread them out across the table like artifacts from some future archeological dig. The paradox of intimacy and abstraction embedded in each 4×6 sheet begged to be decoded. In photography, the “latent image” refers to an image that has been recorded, but is not yet visible, still holding the potential for meaning. But how do we talk about an image that, once visible, has receded into it’s own materiality; the rippling, cracked emulsion of a color photograph? The production of chromogenic photographs is now in rapid decline, but for decades we have depended on this material to record, rewrite and memorialize our lives. Through one destructive, albeit common, event these familiar images have been transformed into bizarre microcosmic landscapes shaped by their own chaotic material logic. This disruption interrogates our collective dependency on a very unstable medium and suggests it’s unlikely, transformative power.

Klea McKenna