There is something poignantly beautiful in seeing family life condensed into photographs. The complexity of emotions and the subtle significance of everyday life so succinctly summarised, the entirety of a human life captured in a snap shot. Vernacular photography holds the unique ability to communicate the universal. Even the most blurred and disposable of images, taken without presumption, posses something genuine, precious, and impossible to recreate.
In his fondly named Ippdipp, Jack Ashley uses recently discovered photographs to illustrate his grandfather’s story of financial fraud at the hands of a family friend (whom he refers to only as ‘J’), and his family’s attempt to conceal it from him. Focusing on the strength of family bonds, his curation of images form a dis-jointed, surreal narrative, their significance only partly known to us. Fragments of family life centre around Jack’s father, who financially held the family together. We see him holding his children, celebratory balloons in view; concealed behind a Halloween mask; and in bed with the chickenpox, the images titled Face and Back (for the bank), evidence to allow him sick leave from work. Throughout these snapshots of everyday life, his face is unreadable, the secret of his father’s bankruptcy unknowable. “I’ve always know my dad to be clever”, Jack explains, “he had developed somewhat of a confidence in working with large sums of money. A confidence he retains to this day, not only with money, but the ability to handle any situation no matter how bad.” On the topic of his father’s discretion, and the moral issues it raises, Jack remarked “I’m not sure if it was a right or wrong decision, but I imagine it was something he felt was imperative they kept a secret. The idea of a family being a unit and ‘strong’ is something very important to my dad, especially coming from a working class background. When you haven’t got any money in the bank, at least you’ve got your family.”
Within family albums, there are often images that are well known to us, even when the memory has been forgotten, or perhaps never known at all. It is the physical object then that acquires meaning, for all it depicts and represents. As he pieces together his family’s past only recently known to him through photographs, Jack hopes people will “take on a sense of vicariousness through viewing them, and recognise a history they may not have lived but understand.”
And on his unusual title? – “It comes from the children’s rhyme ‘Ip dip doo, the cats got the flu, the dogs got chicken pox, so out goes you’. I love those first syllables, they’re so soft but are totally abstract”