Jason Lazarus: Too Hard To Keep

Submitted by Kate Meyers Emery,

On October 22, 2016, we will be opening our newest exhibition, A Matter of Memory: Photography as Object in the Digital Age. The exhibition explores the relationship between changes in the production of photographs due to technological advances, and how this impacts society’s relationship to memory. As part of this exhibition, Jason Lazarus will be displaying his project, Too Hard To Keep, which pulls from a growing archive of photographs that have been sent to Jason from around the world, and have been deemed too painful to hold on to by the original owner. As part of the project, those who submit photos may dictate stipulations about their use and display in the project.

As Jason’s project travels around the world, he has been actively seeking submissions in the areas where he is presenting the work. Leading up to A Matter of Memory, Jason is looking for submissions from the Rochester region (see the call for submissions below). Given that, we thought it would be fascinating to learn a little more about the project from Jason in his own words.

1) What inspired you to start this project?

i started the project because i am the sort of person who has photos too hard to keep, and after asking friends, i received a lot of good feedback that an archive for these types of images might have a wider appeal.  after making calls for submissions the response was positive and it has grown ever since!

2) What is are the 'rules' of the project that you dictate for yourself? I'm wondering whether you have a set of internal rules about how you will treat these, what is kept and what isn't, what is shown where, how they are stored, if it comes with frames or related objects do you keep them?

the project is purposefully non-museological, things aren't under glass, narratives are not given, didactics are minimal.  i believe the prompt is enough to start off the audience...i respect and count on their own histories, feelings,  curiosity, and complexity to engage the installations.  i don't have rules per se, i try to keep showing new entries, i allow most submissions to get mixed up so that small groups of images disperse into the wider set (a sort of bleeding i call 'archival slippage').  i also try to represent the wide array of entries i receive, rather than exhibit en masse the most ubiquitous and similar couple pictures i receive.  submissions marked private are always shown face down.  i am starting to exhibit unopened packages as well that may be opened later for a future installation.  

3) What are some of the stipulations people give you when submitting their photographs?

the stipulations are minimal by design, the biggest decision is whether any images are 'private,' virtually all submissions say i'm free to exhibit as i please.  i think this generosity on the part of participants is because of a reciprocity they feel with the project--they are given an opportunity for their image to amass new meanings about larger themes, and i try to handle the submissions with an eye toward respecting the complex feelings the photos had and may have to a new audience.

4) What do you hope to communicate to those who see your work, or those whose photos you've taken? Is there a hope that they will also submit something? 

submissions are always welcome but i never pressure anyone to submit.  i think the project and installations are the offer to the public, and it is up to them whether submitting feels generative.  beyond nostalgia or art therapy, i think the project speaks to larger ideas of the instability of our lives and thus our private archives.  we don't learn rules about how to trace our own history, and our images are made out of love and enthusiasm often without ideas about how meaning might change, the archivalness of the materials, organizational strategies, etc.  but, these images represent the last gasps of the analog archive in a moment of digital/social media, and i think recalibrate the way we might think of our digital archives which present many new questions that are implicated by looking at this recent analog history.

Do you have photographs TOO HARD TO KEEP?

Do you have photographs TOO HARD TO KEEP?
I have been collecting photographs TOO HARD TO KEEP from the public since 2010. 
I'm teaming up with the George Eastman Museum for an exhibition selected from the collection that opens October 21, 2016.
If you have photographs TOO HARD TO KEEP you would like to submit to the archive, you can either:

drop off at the museum anytime in person (in an envelope or box marked TOO HARD TO KEEP)
or mail to:
George Eastman Museum
900 East Avenue 
Rochester, NY 14607

***The archive is not only open for physical photographs but also slides, albums, unprocessed film, memory cards, and other photo-objects.
***The reason you can't live with the photo I do not need to know, images are shown without detailed texts. All submissions are exhibited anonymously.
***Submissions can be marked 'PRIVATE' in which case I will only exhibit them face down.

I am happy to answer any questions and hope this project helps you part with something in a more graceful manner.
For project inquiries, email toohardtokeep [at] gmail [dot] com


[Images provided by Jason Lazarus from To Hard To Keep]

Monday, August 15, 2016