Steven Cook is an artist who works with digital media and photography. His latest series of work Alternity, manifests possible pasts in mendacious but startlingly believable photographic images.
"These alternate narratives are strangely familiar, yet have a sense of disquiet as histories collide and memories blur. We understand the photograph’s adventure derived from the co-presence of apparently irredeemably separate elements, but we also believe in their conflation. This is no dismissal of culture, merely a refusal to accept what others have said. In an age where notions of the importance of time dominate all areas of cultural exchange, there is inevitably a sense of anticipation and not a little neurosis. Cook seems to suggest that things aren’t always what they seem and the past is maybe not what we thought it was. Is it possible to change the past, to make it different by seeing it through post-modern eyes?" Roy Voss 1908
Alternity began about 5 years ago when I started collecting old photographs and carte de visites of people.
I'd be sifting through thousands of the things and every once in a while there would be a character who stood out from the rest - someone who wasn't looking stiff, uptight and scared of losing their soul to the camera. They shone. Maybe they had an enticing smirk or twinkle in the eye. These were the photos I'd buy.
I began to wonder why people always looked as if they belonged to their own particular era and whether they'd look out of place in the 21st century wearing contemporary fashions.
As an experiment I started to scan the photos and swap bits around digitally. Things got especially interesting when I began scanning from my own negatives and dropping those into the melange.
It might be a shop front from Brooklyn, a heavily tattooed Betti Marenko, a photo I took of Andy Warhol, Canary Wharf underground station, or a backdrop from Rennes-le-Chateau in France. I discovered I was creating something completely new by sampling and re-mixing images in this way.
As the series developed, I noticed that the characters from the historic photographs were becoming more and more liberated. It seemed as if they were breaking out of their own repressed age and were starting to interact with the 21st century.
Perhaps they were ahead of their time ...or had they discovered fourth dimensional travel?
With Alternity I have created my own version of the past, resurrecting these people from their long forgotten existence, giving them their fifteen minutes of fame - posthumously."
Steven Cook is a photographer, digital artist and graphic designer. His work has appeared alongside Pierre et Gilles, Araki and Doris Kloster. Cook’s images have also been seen worldwide on album sleeves for William Orbit and the Extreme Clubbing series. He is the regular cover artist for Mattel’s Barbie Magazine, and was formally Art Director for 2000 AD.
"Any computer aid can be misused and Photoshop's facilities for manipulation of images have led to some less-than-stunning results. Cook’s work is a lesson in how it should be done" - Tony Mitchell, editor Fetish Masterpieces of Erotic Fantasy Photography
(Carlton Books, l999)