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Figure One. Family portrait. De Laszlo Collection of Paul Laib negatives, The Conway Library. 


Figure Two. Zoom in of image. Collection of Paul Laib negatives, The Conway Library. 

Courtauld’s Conway Library is home to ‘the archive of 22,000 glass plates known as the De Laszlo Collection of Paul Laib Negatives’ which includes images of major artist’s works in Britain. The extensive collection spans from 1900-1945 and is a highlight of the library (The Courtauld, 2021).

The archive is vast and spans not only across artist work but also domestic photography such as commissions of family portraiture. When browsing the collection, I came across an image of a seemingly inconspicuous family portrait with no accompanying information. When inspecting further, it becomes apparent the man in the top right corner (a solider perhaps?) has been patched in (Figure Two). The result is rather surreal and almost ghostly. It creates questions, such why he was not present during the photograph. Was he a solider away at war, a deceased loved one or was it placed to cover something in the background? 

The false presence is rather eerie and uneasy, and whilst the intent may be innocent it seems unavoidable to think about the image in relation to phantasmic bodies, of a presence that cannot quite be manifested into physical form.

The Courtauld., 2021. Conway Library. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

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