David Bate

David is an artist and theorist working in photography, and one of the most thought provoking and rigorous critical practitioners (which is to say, thinkers) working in and with the medium today.

His books Photography: the Key Concepts (2nd edition, Bloomsbury, 2016), Art Photography (Tate Publishing, 2015), Photography and Surrealism (IB Tauris, 2004) as well as the journal photographies (Routledge, 2009- ) of which he is a co-founding editor, are perhaps the most popular representatives of a career that spans more than 30 years and includes numerous essays and art works crucial to a critical understanding of the medium through time and across different geographies.

Teaching has been a constant activity in Bate’s career, and it was at the University of Westminster, where he is Professor of Photography, that we first met more than ten years ago, first in the MA Photographic Studies and then for the supervision of my PhD.

From the artist statement for his series Bungled Memories:

'(...) Freud gave the general name parapraxes to these various types of accident: forgetting words, forgetting to do things, bungled actions, saying the wrong thing (slips of the tongue), making obvious errors, etc. More commonly known as 'Freudian slips', the argument Freud makes is that what appears as an 'accident' is quite often perplexing because there is no obvious causal explanation for it. While these minor accidents are attributed to tiredness, or distraction, Freud could see that this was not always the case. People, including himself, made errors where there was no justification for it (i. e., they were not tired, or distracted, and were doing things they always do). Freud argued that such accidents are often the outcome of a normal intentional act that has been interfered with - quite literally, interrupted by another thought. Usually this other thought, barely conscious and often unconscious, is a thought in conflict with the action, speech or gesture being made. Why should this not apply to ordinary activites in the kitchen, like cooking or washing up?

The photographs in Bungled Memories look at the objects I have broken. The still life genre typically represents objects from the domestic sphere and here they are no exception. Yet most photographic still life, especially in advertising, tends to idealise or fetishize the objects. Here they are shown on the used kitchen table, often with crumbs or traces of kitchen use. What they reveal is not the original intention or any 'repressed' thought, but an image that remains enigmatic, in the same way that a dream-image might, without analysis or interpretation of the latent meaning.

The work intends to show that a personal 'accident' or 'mistake' is more than 'nothing', that it can create and does mean something. Each picture has a title, which relates to both the specific object that I broke and to a possible chain of thoughts, a scenario in which that accident took place.'