Ideas for my research project have not exactly been flooding into my mind; so far a couple of possibilities have suggested themselves only to founder on doubts about their viability and/or practicality. For example, I thought of exploring the correspondences between Rodchenko’s portraits of Mayakovsky and religious icons of the Russian Orthodox Church (the full-frontal stance, the penetrating gaze), only to find that there is already a very good book on the persistence of Russian religious art forms in the post-revolutionary avant-garde – a fascinating thought (although it doesn’t actually mention Rodchenko’s photos, so it may be worth a try…).
My latest idea has a bit more mileage, I hope – I’m thinking of researching the “tableau photography” of Tom Hunter, particularly his re-working of Old Masters into contemporary images, and linking them to photographic history, for example the Victorian “art photographers”. Possibly the best-known example of his approach is Woman Reading a Possession Order, which almost completely re-creates the composition and structure of Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window.
Tom Hunter’s picture is not only a stylish art-history conceit, it’s also an authentic picture of contemporary London life. The situation in the image is real; a neighbour served with notice of eviction from her east London home by the local authority. Tom Hunter’s photograph created such a stir that the eviction never took place. I think this is a very unusual combination of method and intention, and it would be very interesting (well, for me) to determine if there are precedents for his art-historical approach to image-making being used for social ends.