Interview #81: Kaitlyn Danielson


"Written on the Back depicts the functionality of photographs as memory. Illustrating both absence and presence, the images of this series serve to stimulate one's own memory and past. The work explores themes of nostalgia, the past, and memory, and reflects my own personal desire to achieve the impossible: to preserve the past and avoid the impending prospect of being forgotten.
My collage work explores photography in relation to history and permanence, and serves to question the function of photography as memory, and the fallacy that photography is truth. Each collage is constructed using old photographs and paper ephemera that are found separately, and then pieced together to construct loose narratives to be interpreted by the viewer. I often include backs of photographs in my collages to represent the passage of time, fading of memory, and fleeting nature of life. Offering minimal detail, the back of a photograph allows a viewer to replace his/her own, imagined image in its’ place, thus creating a new life from that which had formerly been discarded."

- Kaitlyn Danielson


CUS: What draws you to utilizing found imagery in your work?

Kaitlyn Danielson: Initially, I began using found imagery in my work as a way to cope with the mass amounts of photographs that already exist. It was a recycling effort, of sorts. I quickly became intrigued by the stories behind the images, who they previously belonged to, and what memories they held. I like the idea of giving new life to something that has been discarded.
Because I am a very process-based artist, the search for the images themselves is also very appealing to me. I never quite know what I am searching for until I see it. There is an element of chance involved, and nothing quite like the “A-HA” moment of finding a photograph in a pile of hundreds that speaks to me.


CUS: What interests you about featuring the writing or captions of the found photographs instead of the image themselves?

KD: I love the mystery that is created by denying my viewer the original image. An act of exchange is sparked between the work and the viewer by only revealing the back of the photograph. One is gently asked to draw from one’s own memory and life, and imagine what might be on the front. 
The nostalgic part of me also loves the aesthetic of old handwriting. It is so beautiful and rich in character. Because the personal and handwritten has almost disappeared from our current culture, I think the work inadvertently becomes a quiet critique of this loss. 


CUS: You state that you aim to achieve the impossible: " preserve the past and escape the impending prospect of being forgotten." What keeps you motivated to continue working toward this goal? Do you feel like one can succeed in the escape of being forgotten?

KD: At some point, we will all be forgotten. There is no escaping it. Albeit a futile effort, photography becomes a way for me to grapple with this reality. I recently visited the Irving Penn exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw a quote by Penn that really resonated with me: “To me personally, photography is a way to overcome mortality.”  


CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming news/exhibitions/projects?

KD: I don’t have any exhibitions lined up, but I am currently working on a few ongoing projects that can be seen on my website, as well as scheming up a new project that will serve as my Senior thesis for my final year at the School of Visual Arts. 


CUS: What are you plans for the summer?

KD: I will be assisting a former professor of mine in a photography course for Freshman at the School of Visual Arts. I also hope to spend some time in the darkroom making B&W prints, and experiment with lumen prints and platinum/palladium printing. Can’t wait! Other than that, I hope to go on a camping trip or two, and catch up on some reading. 






Kaitlyn Danielson is a photographic artist currently based in New York. Her work stems from a fascination with the past, memory, and the history of photography in its’ relation to the present. Using found imagery and working with older processes of photography, Kaitlyn explores the monumental gap between the photographic past and present.