Veronica Bailey / Hermes Baby
September 2013
Interviewed by Sharon Boothroyd

Veronica Bailey is a photographic artist based in London.  The strength of her work is situated in her approach to history and the archive as well as her conceptual use of the binaries image and text and ambiguity and truth.

Bailey was awarded a Jerwood Photography Award in 2003 and has enjoyed solo shows around the world including USA, Korea, Canada, Germany.  Press features include Portfolio, Art Forum, Hotshoe International, Eye, Guardian, FT.  Postscript is represented in the Victoria & Albert Museum London and other UK and international collections.  Her work is currently on display until 14th September at The Showcase in London.

Below, Veronica speaks with Sharon Boothroyd about her career and specifically the work Hermes Baby.  This series takes texts from an auto-biography written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Marguerite Higgins on her experiences of the Korean war.  Most of her articles were written on the front of a jeep on a portable Hermes baby typewriter.

Sharon Boothroyd: Throughout your career you have frequently adopted the methodology of using image and text. What interests you about bringing them together? 

Veronica Bailey: Storytelling is what draws me to combine text and image. My time as a volunteer guide (1996-2000) at 2 Willow Road - the National Trust House property designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger - made me realise that the line between fact and fiction is blurred. There was a wonderful myth that the writer Ian Fleming based the villain in his novel Goldfinger on Ernö, because of the surname. The truth is less dramatic, and only an associated reference. But the public wanted to believe that the image they had of Ernö Goldfinger was true, and I found that to be interesting, despite a written statement from the family that dispelled this myth.

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SB: There is an art to selecting words from longer excerpts without it becoming either too obvious or too obscure.  What criteria do you use and how do you ascertain what text works best?

VB: I have always been interested in typography, letter forms and printing. Editing text to create titles can create powerful headlines, through both the form and meaning. For example, in an earlier series - Postscript 2005 - I was initially drawn to Lee Miller's handwritten love letters to Roland Penrose. Whilst I was in the archive I also discovered her typed war reports for Vogue magazine, which were compelling reading. Her articles evoked a stronger sense of emotion, in stark contrast to her striking black and white photography. I observed a very personal style of writing, which resinated when I later read Higgins' reporting. I feel these colourful descriptions of war reveal ambiguous emotions and feelings. My series Hermes Baby 2011 contrasts black and white letterforms with colourful excerpts of text such as 'Purple Heart', 'Green Soldiers', and 'Vanilla-ice-cream'. They create an illusion of youth, playfulness and naivety.

During WWII, both M H and L M were based at the journalist's headquarters - Hotel Scribe in Paris. After 1945 Miller headed home, but Higgins continued to other front line conflicts, later winning the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, for reporting the Korean war in 1952.

Read the full article HERE
All artwork and images © Veronica Bailey 2024.