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Nervous Eaters
1979/80; 2008 ongoing

Narrative series of 76 photographs

Nervous Eaters book, text and images Michael Snelling, 160p, design
Brett Weeks

The photographs in Nervous Eaters came from a period in the USA, in
1979, and Adelaide, Australia in 1980. Essentially a road trip, it was made as I
travelled from Los Angeles to New York City and back over a year and then
moved to live and work in Adelaide.

I first exhibited it as single prints, although I always saw the sequencing as
constructing a fluid narrative. I did a mock up of a book, which would
determine the order and thus the reading, but I couldn’t find a publisher.
In the mid-2000s I was drawn back to the work at a time when I was again
thinking about the deterministic manner of interpretation, how although
meaning is assigned or ascribed, it can shift radically upon context or mood or
the company one is in, and particularly how passing time will always add
layers. The meaning of a photograph is contextual, and thus the photograph
cannot be understood independently of its use.

Early photojournalists understood this, and often insisted on writing their
own captions for news photographs, and similarly insisting that the image not
be cropped, although it’s curious that these captions are almost always
removed once the photograph enters the gallery or is published in books.
I decided to write a fictional story to accompany Nervous Eaters in a book
form, which freezes the sequencing the images, and to spread the text
through the book, thus hopefully into a narrative rather than a gathering of
single frames. The protagonist is a woman and the style that of a thriller.
When I return to print, I treat the print as a version. I might write on them
and scale them differently, change the tonality.

I have also exhibited themed and scaled selections as a sort of installation.
I am interested in the idea of giving the images to other writers to make
their own stories and publishing them in an ongoing series.
There is an unfinished performance of the work as a monologue with


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