The photographic essay, a seemingly modern version of plates from Diderot’s Encyclopedia, appeared in the July 1955 issue of Fortune Magazine. Praising the hardware store as an “offbeat museum show” the author saw these objects as standards of “elegance, candor, and purity” and lauded the manufactures care in every detail.
Among low-priced, factory-produced goods, none is so appealing to the senses as the ordinary hand tool. Hence, a hardware store is a kind of offbeat museum show for the man who responds to good, clear “undesigned” forms. The Swedish steel pliers pictured above, with their somehow swanlike flow, and the objects on the following pages, in all their tough simplicity, illustrate this. Aside from their functions—though they are exclusively wedded to function—each of these tools lures the eye to follow its curves and angles, and invites the hand to test its balance. Who would sully the lines of the tin-cutting shears on page 105 with a single added bend or whorl? Or clothe in any way the fine naked impression of heft and bite in the crescent wrench on page 107? To be sure, some design-happy manufacturers have tampered with certain tool classics; the beautiful plumb bob, which used to come naively and solemnly shaped like a child’s top, now looks suspiciously like a toy space ship, and is no longer brassy. But not much can be done to spoil a crate opener, that nobly ferocious statement in black steel, as may be seen on page 104. In fact, almost all the basic small tools stand, aesthetically speaking, for elegance, candor, and purity. —W.E.
(FORTUNE July 1955)
Some 60 years later Darren Harvey-Regan‘s series “Phrasings” plays with Evans’s original Common Tool series, in an experiment which questions the nature of photography and its relationship to the material word. Using the medium to document the everyday’s and the commonplace, Evans contributed to the transitioning of photography towards a conceptual art-form, echoing the beauty inherent in common form. Harvey-Regan collages together Evans’ tool images in order to obtain new forms and then translates the images back into material obects, sourcing, cutting and rejoining matching tools. Whereas Evans’ photography starts with the material and ends up with the image, Harvey-Regan starts with preexisting images, and then turns them into something material, although bizarre and dysfunctional.
My work frequently considers three primary elements of the photographic process – a subject (the thing in the world), the image (the photographic representation, the picture) and the photographic object (the material photograph itself, the paper object, be it mounted, framed or frameless) – and emphasizing or creating overlaps between them. These can be a playful interplays or considered encounters, swapping roles or perception of these elements around to create an ambiguity over exactly how things might be seen. I like the idea of things being in a state of movement, one way or another depending on ones current thought or perspective.
(For Harvey-Regan, photography is a) means of transposing material into other material, adding new meaning or thoughts in the process. I think photographing materials is a way to consider the means of creating meaning, and it’s a tactile process with which I feel involved. Touching and moving and making are my engagement with the world and my art.
The series Phrasings has been featured among many other works by different authors in the exhibition “Against Nature”, held at the London Art Fair 2015 (21-25 January 2015).
According to the curator Sheyi Bankale of Next Level Projects, the show investigates the disruption of tradition and re-interpretation of the “photographic practice as an act, intervention or object“, responding to the notion that photography is a material medium, able “to be transformed into actual space and dimension“.
Fundamentally, the central role of this exhibition is to critically record the function of images in a fashion emblematic to an internet-like structure. The way knowledge of a generation is sourced through a spectacle of questions. Google a question and what is received is a labyrinth of answers.