iPhoto: a research methodology

iPhotoThroughout the last 2 years, I have built a very extensive image database, collecting visual things I have encountered in a provisory way, as they may be able to help me make my argument in my thesis. In addition to this, I have also accumulated a number of images documenting my work and creative process. To this day, the archive contains 1106 images, 296 of which are mine, dating from 1998 to 2007. The archive is held on my computer, in folders and directories that are regularly backed up. This method, however, is wholly unsatisfactory to the visual researcher: it prevents me encountering my images by chance, stops the opening of memories lost.

To address this shortcoming, I turned to Apple’s iPhoto, a software package that comes with all Mac computers and claims to visually manage archives of images. As I was importing and organising the images, I decided to create a smart album where all the images that weren’t categorised in other folders would go. I did this in order to capture my work, by far the largest category. This meant I went through the process of importing, which took about one hour, without really seeing my images. So when I finished, this is the folder I first clicked on.

What I found took me by surprise, as the visual often does. In front of me was a roadmap of my thinking for the last 9 years, 2 of which belong to my intense PhD, 7 of which are part of the time leading up to it, with its mistakes, its changes of direction, its uncomfortableness. Seeing the process my practice had been through, its journey, was strangely revealing. Progress is not always evident in a research degree –particularly practice-led– but there it was, right in front of my eyes.