Laura Chen


Once commonplace in every home, the photo album was used to commemorate and storage family history, covering every aspect of life from birth to death. The pages tell stories that hold a little bit of each of us within them.



Finders Keepers is a series that explores my interest in vernacular photography and image appropriation.

The decision to work with found images comes forth from the aspiration of wanting to see what I can do with photographs that I have not taken myself. It seemed to me the ideal challenge to create something new with ready-made materials —in this case images from exposed, undeveloped rolls of film I which found at antique markets and purchased online from eBay.

I have enabled images that were once hidden inside film canisters, to come to the surface, providing them a second chance to exist. The moment I take ownership of the negatives, their meaning undergoes a change. Though flooded with prescribed and imprinted information, I attempt to look at them as a clean canvas, in order to introduce them to a new life with a new function.

As the collector, I become the artist and curator, using the photographs themselves as a medium. Each montage is made up from many individual details, extracted from many different photographs. Essentially what I am doing is similar to set building or scenic construction. During this process of merging, the images begin to present photographic accounts of places, people and things that would have otherwise never been put in relation to one another.


Flick through the pages of the photo album.


I am interested in pictures that makes you question what you’re seeing, that compel the viewer to narrate what they think is happening.

With the original context long forgotten, we are left with an image full of curiosity, enhanced by the kitschiness of fashion styles and designs of days gone by.

I will never know exactly what the photographs are about, what or who they show me, neither why they were taken in the first place. After all, I was not the one to press the shutter.

I had no control over other technical and visual qualities either; how the images were composed or lit. I had no input or say about what was left in- or outside of the picture frame. But it is exactly this —all these elements that make the images the way they are— that motivates me to come up with creative approaches to realise my vision and transform them into something of my own.

I am fascinated by the idea that the unknown owners and creators of these photographs would have probably never expected to see them presented this way.


A moving image piece created with appropriated garden pictures, accompanied by manipulated found dialogue, a composed music piece by James Attwood, and nature sound recordings from my backyard.


These are restaged family events and alternative memories for a family photo album. The pages are filled with pictures you wouldn’t normally see and/or include; the mistakes, the imperfections, the unusual.



Original descriptions and explanations are lost, so I provide new facts and information with the use of collage and short written captions.


Using Format