The hands-on part of my work takes place in the attic. It involves sorting, searching, and seeing. Mentally—often physically—it requires stamina. Conceptually, the work revolves around ideas of loss and legacy…destruction and disintegration…family history and the archive. Broadly speaking: memory. Things—often photographic materials—that are overlooked, considered insignificant and/or trivialized play an important role, and presenting them anew is part of what I consider their rehabilitation. Indeed, I have often found that the most compelling images and objects are the ones others (and I myself) at first dismiss. Sometimes I have the feeling of being sought out by the material, not the other way around; as Ernst Bloch wrote: “We are not born simply to accept or write down what was and how it all was before we were here; rather, everything awaits us, things seek out their own poet and desire to be associated with us.”
Though I seldom intrude into existing narratives, I make use of them to tell new stories.
I take an interest in how things become connected (and separated again), and this spills over into the organization of my exhibitions. There is often a kind of quasi-genealogical structure to the way the images become associated with each other in the shows and, in a larger sense, as components of my own body of work. Given that I often select materials from family archives, these connections can be quite literal—Baroness Johanna Kotz von Dobrz, who as a sixteen-year-old made the sketches I discovered and re-used for my work 1862, for instance, was presumably a niece of the missing Prince Auersperg (le Prince Auersperg) from the Ruined Album series, which emerged from a completely separate source and archive. The works Library and Study represent, among other things, systems of classification in two successive generations within my own family. Other combinations of images are less literal and more akin to matchmaking on my part to promote ‘intermarriages’ between families; this was the case when I combined images pertaining to the history of Pompeii with objects from my family and other anonymous images in the exhibition ASH, inc., a meditation on ashes in a variety of their forms and meanings. The idea of ‘Pompeii’ bound the seemingly disparate items together as a metaphor for things cataclysmically lost, long buried, later rediscovered, excavated, and put to new uses. As it happens, this also describes the individual trajectories of most of my works.
The independent curator Jasper Sharp recently wrote about my 2010 exhibition Story Problems at Josh Lilley Gallery in London: “Many of the works in the exhibition share a concern for exposure: of images that would otherwise be hidden from public view; of instances in which photography, painting and draughtsmanship briefly coincide; of the important role played by the human hand in early photographic technique; and of the development of manipulation from analogue to digital. In confronting preconceptions of boundaries within the medium, Huey’s works reveal as much about photography in times past as they do its position today.”