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  • Ana Savković

Reimag(e)ining the Past/An Endless Well of Inspiration

"Sunlight and shadows entwine A tender embrace

Tales unfold..."

Ever since its beginnings in the nineteenth century, photography has fascinated members of all classes and changed the way individuals perceive themselves and the world around them. Cendrine Marrouat, David Ellis and Hadiya Ali, authors of the book Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography (book link:, are no different. They themselves have been captivated by this visual medium, and in cases of Marrouat and Ellis, incorporated it in their literary work, thus creating a new form. The three members of the PoArtMo Collective, a gathering of inspirational artists, writers and photographers that combine their talents to produce positive, mixed media projects (, Marrouat, Ellis and Ali, co-authored their book with the notion of honouring the early days of photography, while at he same time creating new forms (Marrouat and Ellis) by combining compelling writing with captivating imagery. While studying the book, it becomes intriguing to see how each one of the authors interprets and tributes the past in their own way, having different visions and unique perspectives of the past that they wish to accentuate.

"Recreating his work gave me a chance to connect with nature.” Hadiya Ali

Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography is a unique collection divided in three parts, bringing together different concepts. In the first part, Hadiya Ali introduces the readers to photographers Irving Penn (1917-2009) and Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) while creating photographic work inspired by them. Penn was known for his fashion photography, still lifes and portraits. Ali tries to capture Penn's magic while at the same time putting her own individual stamp on each of the fashionable, black and white photos. On the other hand, Blossfeldt made very detailed and clear close-ups of botanical specimens such as plants, flowers and seeds which inspired Ali to recreate some of that wondrous imagery in her own photos, while evoking curiosity and fascination with the natural world in the observer.

“Reminigrams are just a way for me to allow my images to speak a unique language inspired by the one we all know.” Cendrine Marrouat

In the second part, Cendrine Marrouat introduces the readers to reminigrams, a digital homage to the early days of photography. The word is a combination

of two ideas: "reminiscence", which stands for a memory or the act of recovering it; and "-gram", a suffix of Greek origin meaning “something written” or "drawing". Marrouat edits photos from her personal archive until she captures the mood of old images that she uses for inspiration. While observing Marrouat's work one is enthralled by her idea of a unique and universal language in which the images speaks to different people. Her photos, made with modern technology, bring to life the past in today's surroundings and evoke a feeling of passage of time which the author tries to seize in the present moment, a moment which will soon itself become a memory.

“The beauty of inventing your own poetry form is that it allows you to be flexible when it comes to incorporating it into other types of written forms. A picture can inspire a thousand words but it is the job of the writer to conjure up many vivid images in your mind from just a few words. This is why photography and poetry are perfect companions in the way they tell stories and express sentiments." David Ellis

In the last, third part of the book, David Ellis presents a series of pareiku poems (the poetry form Cendrine and he created), trough which he displays his deep appreciation and sincere admiration for the photography of the past. Combining the concepts of "pareidolia" (the tendency to see specific messages in random visual patterns) and "-ku" (a tribute to Japanese poetry forms), a pareiku is a 19-syllable poem that ties together two seemingly unrelated images. The two images can feature the same or different types of visual art (photography, paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc.). Ellis gives a new outlook on vintage images by combining the photos and tying them together with poetic writing. Haibun poetry is also presented in the last part of the book; it is a combination of two poetry forms: prose poem and haiku, and is usually devoted to travel, character sketches, landscape scenes, anecdotal vignettes, and occasionally to honor a specific patron or event.

To look is to comprehend the world that surrounds one, and to create is to bring to life the world that is within him. And that is exactly what Marrouat, Ellis and Ali did, they let themselves be influenced by the visual imagery from the past, and then recreated it in their own, unique ways. Seizing the Bygone Light encompasses both the past and the present with its engaging imagery and intriguing writing. It is an interesting book that offers a significant understanding of photography, while its authors show their creativity and different visions of the past by being innovative and imaginative. Marrouat, Ellis and Ali found an effective way of honouring and reimag(e)ining the past, making it an endless well of inspiration for many more artists to come.

"The past does hold many treasures..."


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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