Memory Espionage, 2003
Memory Espionage (2003) is a series of collages created in response to emergence of digital photography, and more particularly to change of photography’s status within communications culture. It was shot just before digital cameras started to be incorporated into mobile phones on a wide scale, before a mobile phone photography culture would re-introduce photography as part of the vernacular. Photography culture was undergoing rapid changes caused by, or expressed through, an acceleration in technological advances. This produced in many photographers an almost psychotic obsession to keep up with the latest products in pursuit of digital perfection, with heated but tiresome debates about superiority of digital over analogue (or the other way around) photographic processes. Digital cameras were changing fast, bringing to life a new group of photographers – those who had to have the latest model, as if anything less would deem they craft and work inferior. Conversations about what was in a photograph were being replaced by conversations about equipment it was shot on. Memory Espionage, was made as some form of resistance to that tendency, and through joy of playing with a matchbox-size, toy camera, which was suitably called Espion Digital Dream. It was capable of registering very low digital quality images and offered no control, beyond a simple act of pointing and shooting. The images could not be displayed instantaneously. One felt an anticipation of having to wait to see the photographs until they could be downloaded, which positions the process of creating this work, like a missing link, somewhere between film and digital photography.
What this little spy like device allowed, was to harvest the images from daily life secretly and easily. The images were small and surprising, bringing to surface an interplay of intent and chance in the taking photographs. Embracing the chance factor whilst shooting, created for Ania Dabrowska a desire to regain control over the work, leading to construction of the collages. Through processes of editing, cutting, inverting, slicing, and repetition, the artist removes them from a realm of the real to narrative fictions. The notions of memory and espionage blend with one another as the series stands to consider how and why we register some moments as more important then others, how we re-formulate them whilst storing and recalling them from our memories, and how they can never serve to prove anything, since what is real and what is remembered are not necessarily alway the same thing.