Jan Cylwik

I Thought You Were Dead

This highly experimental project used memorial statues, found in London’s major Victorian cemeteries, as actors in a narrative exploring attitudes to mortality. Although dead, the statues appear animated due to a unique multiple exposure technique developed during this project. Images of statues were used in eleven monochrome photomontages. These deal with contemporary attitudes to mortality ranging from the despair, mourning, darkness and decay, through to looking towards the light, untethering from the grave, movement towards a higher place.

I was inspired to photograph statues after attending Tom Lovelace's course on the intersection of photography with sculpture, painting, writing and performance. Initially, my aim was to produce a 2D image of a statue which had a 3D quality by superimposing images taken from slightly different perspectives. The experiment failed but surprisingly produced a strong sense of motion. This offered an opportunity to exploit apparent movement of statues artistically. At that time I had mortality in mind as two close friends died earlier in the year. In that context, I was drawn to photograph statues in my local cemetery in Kensal Green. Being the most inanimate of statues, they posed perhaps the greatest animation challenge.

To find suitable statues I walked about 40km around 8 Victorian cemeteries. Over period of 4 months I generated 2000 photos to refine the animation technique and get a feel of what other cemetery images might complement animated statues. These were edited down to 40 images from which a photo montage series was created.

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