George Wietor has made no shortage of beautiful things on his Risograph duplicators at Issue Press but this extra smart artist book by Anna Campbell is one of our absolute favorites. A terrifically ethical and poetic approach to working with historical materials.
– Half Letter Press
A collection of images abstracted from the photo collection of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY. Compiled during a month in residence at the Archive, these images have been modified, isolating only hands, bare arms, and any objects they may hold. This selective editing prompts the viewer to fill in the gaps not only of the physical image itself but also in the narratives of everyday lesbian life they depict. The essay below is reprinted from Ever Your Friend:
Fingers curled around a cigarette, a hand on a shoulder, the tension in the space between bodies: the images in Ever Your Friend are fragments drawn from the files of the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ photo collection. Few of the women represented in the collection are well known; many are anonymous. What remains enigmatic about any of them exceeds what those photographs reveal. That their hands, bare arms, and the objects they hold have been isolated from the full context of the archival images parallels the ellipsis of our understanding.
Images in the Archives’ photo collection include ephemera from theatres and nightclubs, clippings from newspapers, portraits, publicity photos, photocopies, postcards, erotica, and the occasional tintype, but the photo collection overwhelmingly consists of vernacular photography documenting parties, protests and everyday lesbian life. These images have largely not been seen outside of the Archives, as a process for securing the permissions for publication was not in place at the time the photo collection was established. My tight focus on small areas of exposure in these photographs allows for the possibility of their reproduction, but also foregrounds the tone of a gesture, the intimate contact between women, and the significance of the lesbian hand as an instrument of sexual pleasure.
The intimacy of paging through this book is meant to extend the experience of researching in the photographic collection; its diasporic distribution functions as an inversion of the aggregation of material by the Archives. As a bound collection, the book’s spreads create a series of formal associations and visual puns that cross geographic, generational, racial and class distinctions.
The title of this volume is borrowed from the back of a portrait photograph that was inscribed “Ever Your Friend, Ida.” The subtlety of that line and all that it might imply aligns with the desiring charge of this project: to re-image profound embodiments, affiliations, and passions through the sparest of gestures.