Have you ever thought about your relation with the past? What’s the feeling that an old image transmits to you? If you look at the artwork of Frances Berry you would be able to answer these questions. This American picture maker, as she likes to be defined, wants to recreate new stories through the distortion of vintage pictures
Her photo series make us remember the time when we were little. When we looked at the old photos of our family, wondering who these people were. Looking at Frances her artwork, we take this question one-step further. We dig deeper, and wonder how we got here or what will happen in the future. Curious to know what goes on inside the mind of the artist, we talked with her about her vision of the past, the present and the future. 
How would you describe yourself?
Intense. Excited. Constantly straddling the line between self-deprecation and silently thinking. I'm a genius – a walking contradiction. I don't believe in horoscopes, however, I'm a classic Pisces.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography and I are constant odds with one another. It is been a lover and a friend, a time traveling device, a catalyst for a great melancholy. My ideas and opinions about the purpose of photography have greatly changed from complete unawareness, as to its function to absolute confusion and amazement; as to the amount of stock we put into its existence. Most of my work is created out of both my fascination and frustration with the belief that photographic and cinematic images are second to reality, and are accurate depictions of the way human beings experience the world. I see this perception as one based not in truth, but caused by a sense of convenience in experiencing those images.
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What would be the difference between photography and your work?
The photograph undermines our ability to access the more organic, 'living' memory within the confines of our minds. A photo reinforces the fact that the past is permanently behind us, but I want to create images that filter that past into the present.
The way we understand and relate to time is a paradox: we are firmly planted in the present while visions of the past swarm around us. In my work, I seek to create alternatives to the traditional snapshot that reinforce rather than destroy our internal visualization of time so that one may revisit a moment in a more authentic and meaningful way.
You have some projects with your own photography, yet you rather define yourself as a picture maker, why do you prefer to be called like this?
I prefer picture maker, because it is a much more accurate description of what I do. I don’t rely solely on the camera as a means of production, so the title ‘photographer’ always felt very limiting. Picture Maker carries with it a variety of implications, which allow me to move through various mediums on my way to a finished piece. Sometimes that might involve a camera but by no means is it necessary to the production of a finished piece. A few years ago I became completely bored with taking photos and developed the opinion that there are so many photographs in existence today that they are all equally unimportant. It was then that I began to seek out new methods of image production. 
Most of your work consists of photographs of the past that you manipulate by blurring them, as we can see in series like “Memory Extended” or “Lines we live by”. What technique(s) do you use to get to these works?
I use both my phone and my computer to make my images. I can say that these methods are often hiding in plain sight. My process explores the complex potential hidden within somewhat rudimentary digital functions. By limiting my tools, I am forced to deconstruct the image with more thoughtful precision. “Memory extended” is simply scanner art. If you Google scanner art you will find an abundance of images all distorted in unusual ways but still maintaining the same sort of visual similarity. Many digital artists use a variety of tools to create complex, 'experimental' images. I'm doing the exact same thing, except that I acknowledge my control over the outcome.
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You also use collage in some of your projects. Do you feel more comfortable with the distortion of images or with collage?
It is less about what I am comfortable with and more about what I feel like doing at the moment. My background is in digital media so I began my art-making career as a graphic designer. Graphic design, digital art and collage are natural bedfellows, if not synonymous with one of another.
Where do you find the images that you work with?
Over the years I have stockpiled mid-century advertising and vintage photographs through thousands of trips to thrift shops and my family’s old photo albums. I also use the Library of Congress and other public domain sources on the Internet. 
The past is one of the main topics of your photographs. What do you find in the past that you can't find in the present?
The mid-century scenes/people depicted in the majority of my work are seemingly carefree, uncomplicated, and classically beautiful. They are archetypes of Americana and are in dramatic contrast with contemporary images. By infusing digital processes into these static images, I impose a present awareness onto a historical subject. The resulting distortion reflects the complexities of each scene and the time that separates both me, and ultimately the viewer, from the original image. The subject matter is therefore not the past itself, but the distortion of the image and its many resulting narratives.
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Is there a certain feeling you want your work to evoke with the viewer?
I want the viewer to confront the inner anxieties that I think many of us feel about life today. Being nostalgic is a painful experience for many and makes living in the immediate present very difficult. We start to wander into the scary territory of 'what if.'
As a child I used to spend hours at a time flipping through family photo albums. I would sit down with my mother or grandmother and ask questions about who was who in each photo and what was going on in the images depicted. I was mesmerized by images of myself as a baby, finding it impossible to believe that I was once that small. I was attempting to understand how I fit into the world, where my place was, how I got here, and in a sense – how I might get to the point where my mother and grandmother were. 
What’s the difference between working with elements of the past and doing projects with images of the present?
Technology is the biggest difference. Technology has made it possible to capture sensory experiences with near lossless quality. No longer do we have static in our archives due to limited tech. This does not mean that the interference is not still there, only that perhaps new technologies are simply better at excluding it. Digital imaging has reached a point of realism that seems strangely unreal. It is too clean, too stark and too sterile. Its clarity makes us forget about the code of letters and numbers holding up the image. I believe there is always unexplored territory in the past, and that for images to feel truly ‘real’, they must reflect the dynamism of how we experience time in the present. Where a photographer might shoot a subject to create a trophy-like object or relic, I am capturing these images as if they are live specimens.
Sometimes we don't remember all the memories we have in our mind, or we remember only ones we want to. Does some of your work depict this?
I think it's less about what things we do and don't remember, and more about trying to illustrate the overall complexity of memory in general. Upon entering my own mental archives to recall a personal memory, I am instantly greeted by a glowing mass of past sensory experiences.
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So, for you, what's the view that we have of the past?
We always view the past through a new awareness and in accessing past moments we risk affecting the authenticity of those original memories. The ever-changing structure of our memories is therefore imposing that same fluidity onto our identities. The constant merging of past, present and future identities, combined with external cues, create moments of internal conflict and confusion.
You said that you enter your own mental archive to recall a personal memory. What are the memories or feelings that you find in yourself?
My current feelings about situations that occurred long ago are constantly being reinterpreted by the part of me living in the immediate present. The memories of who I once was or who I once hoped to be, co-mingles with my current self and I am sometimes incapable of seeing where one begins or ends. Disparate versions of myself and the expectations of others often make me feel like floating pieces that don’t quite make up a whole. Within myself, and also within each image I manipulate, the past is being recast; unavoidably affected by the present.
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