Project 9 GOW
January 11 – 11th Feb 2011

Shirley Chubb

One Minute

‘All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to times relentless melt.’ (Sontag, S. On Photography, London: Penguin 2002)

One Minute presentssixty portraits extracted from digitally archived photographs of social and familial groups living in southern regional towns during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Extracted from photographs documenting daily activities, celebrations, regional rituals, traditions and skills, each image reanimates the past and reinstates the individuals that populated these fragments of history within the present. The original photographs capture moments deemed to be of value and significance, and the contemporary viewer responds to the hints of social hierarchy that remain within the extracted portraits. However the uniform processing of the selected individuals responds equally to those who were the focus of attention as well as to those in the background or on the periphery of the original image. In some cases the facial features of the subject are barely discernable, yet the act of concentrating our gaze on these otherwise unnoticed individuals reanimates a sense of individuality, emotion and involvement in a common visual historiography.

The digital interface allows miniscule detail to be extracted as, in Sontag’s words, ‘slices’ of fragmentary time. Each portrait preserves the unedited integrity of the original image, capturing blemishes, blurring and fading as intrinsic elements of the visual quality of the work. Within the animated compilation of images each portrait lingers for one second in actual time, recording the past but seen in the present and presented as a tangible exhibited object in its own right.

Seen within the Gallery of Wonder, One Minute plays on the curatorial practice of using archival photographs to contextualize examples of material culture within museums. Here the images and the subjects themselves become the object of consideration. They are the focus of our attention, involving the viewer in an empathetic relationship with the original individuals now reinstated within our own world of experience and awareness.


One Minute has resulted from research supported by the University of Chichester and undertaken within the photographic archives of Hampshire Museums Service whose support and expertise is gratefully acknowledged.

All images by kind permission of Hampshire Museums Service.



Shirley Chubb’s visual practice focuses on critical interventions within museum collections and archives where she has worked with a variety of institutions including Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and English Heritage. Her work has been presented at national and international conferences and has been funded by the Arts Council England National Touring Programme and the Arts & Humanities Research Board. Shirley Chubb is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Chichester and in 2007 was awarded a practice based PhD by publication at the School of Arts & Communication, University of Brighton. She currently holds a Visiting Fellowship at the Clinical Research Centre for Health Professions, University of Brighton. 


B&W photo of woman

Photos of male and female faces

Exhibit in window

Exhibit in window