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Beginning Database for Ervin

(By Belinda Broughton)

Boxes of negatives, no order, no dates, often the wrong negs with the proof sheets, needless to say, it's frustrating to build a database of Ervin's work. There are some things that he is singularly badly suited for, and filing negatives is one of them. But his brand of creativity thrives in chaos, as with many creative people, I think. And his process often involves reworking images by projecting negatives or turning them to positives. These days all that takes is a poke of the keyboard, but not so long ago Ervin needed to cut his negs up and place them in a contraption that allowed his hassleblad to take photos of them. The resulting negative was a positive. Make sense of that! Anyway it (and other processes he uses) means there are a lot of single negatives floating around like orphans. They don't float though, they grind around in boxes with other negative, dust and bits of whatever he used to create the images: dried flowers, feathers, bits of cut up paper. A fine mess it makes of some of them. But they have had their day anyway. Now the images on them are part of some other art work.

But, from my point of view, there are some treasures that turn up. Things that are quite different to the work that he is mostly known for. Today I found this:


Ervin made whole dioramas for his models to work within. This one looks very peasanty. As a baby, a peasant family fostered him for a few years. (Shameless plug: read Sparrow: Poems of a Refugee to find out more) this is the only one in which he owns the space. In the others he is more vulnerable, Cute, though, isn't he? Well, perhaps I am his wife, so I would think so.

You can see some of the work he went to for this shot (and others in this series). Note the window 'shadow', with its heart and curtain. Also, not only did he buy and put together the floorboards but he added the skirting boards to the studio at the time. He also made the chair and stool and wore out the boots, though maybe not just for this photo.