From my “Telephone Games” series, exhibited as a part of the “Strange Places” exhibition during the Brighton Photo Fringe 2010 and accompanied by a telephone audio guide displayed in what else but a painted red box.
The old red phone box graveyard captured Erika Szostak’s imagination after her friend and eventual model, Nora, described catching a split-second glimpse of it through the window of the train to London. The surreal vision had passed so quickly that Nora couldn’t be sure that she hadn’t dreamed it, and over the next several months of searching, Erika began to wonder if perhaps Nora had invented it after all. Upon finally finding the yard, however, thanks to the vigilance of her husband, Erika knew she had to set up a shoot in its post-apocalyptic landscape of repetition, regeneration and decay. In the end, she hopes the photos convey a sense of playfulness with space and time and the way we communicate (and what that says about us), of timeliness and timelessness, of boundaries permeated and redrawn.
In the spirit of bringing new life to old things, prints have been mounted in salvaged and refurbished vintage frames, bringing the cycle of decay and regeneration of the old phone box graveyard into the presentation of the finished work. If you are interested in one of these versions, please contact me directly.
Jemma: There you are. I’ve been waiting for you to call. Welcome to Strange Places.
Erika: “There’s this place,” she said. “I saw it from the train. You’ve got to see it.” Nora had seen an army of old red phone boxes lined up like proud aging sentries still standing guard for a bygone era, a time when their soundproofed glass walls meant privacy was still possible in public, and when “public” held different connotations than it does now. Upon Nora’s report, I knew instantly that I knew I needed to set up a shoot in that yard, even if took us four more months to find it again. To an American like myself, there are few things more iconically British and exotic than the cast-iron red phone box, an instantly recognizable symbol of an era passing into history, made all the more poignant by the cracking and peeling paint of those fallen into decay, visible contradictions to the sheer weight, solidity and permanence they must have once conveyed. Like once-gleaming Victorian public toilets, the phone boxes represent a time when the support for universal public provision remained ascendant over the encroaching forces of privatization still transforming the social and cultural landscape.
I’m Erika Szostak. Thank you for listening to this audio guide on “Telephone Games.”