I knew that if I walked in your footsteps, it would become a ritual

May 2022 - Code, Video, Lumen & Cyanotype

For this work, I developed a machine learning model based on my own family photographs that is able to create its own images that combine and emulate characteristics of my family photos. I think of the model's remixing and approximating as a metaphor for personal and generational memory. I feel that our understanding of the past is always an approximation. Names are forgotten, moments are conflated with other ones. Memory is something that mutates over time and over generations. I think of this at times, as less of a fault and more of a healing fluidity that allows us to process the past in a way that's enmeshed with the context of the present.

The form of this work is a video piece and series of prints. For the video, family members were asked to speak about specific photographs. Images generated from the machine learning model are animated using footage from these interviews. The facial expressions mimic the original expressions of the family member and the audio is from their original voice. The photographs that are the subject of the interviews are also shown alongside the speaker. Surrounding the video, are prints of the generated images mixed with actual family photographs.

You can read more about my process in this written piece.

still from video still from video close-ups of cyanotype and lumen prints close-ups of cyanotype and lumen prints installation at Center for Book Arts installation at Center for Book Arts


A·kin - in collaboration with stars.archive for The Photographers Gallery

Oct 2022 - Code, Video, Digital Print, Risograph, Website

A·kin looks at how photographic archives and family albums are seen and categorised by humans and machine vision systems. The project highlights the difficulties to grasp anthropological, historical and cultural notions about personal and collective identity when considering photographs as mere data points.

The work is created using my personal family photographs from Tamil Nadu, as well as images from the Studies in Tamil Studio Archives and Society (stars.archive) Archive, a collection which investigates the history of South Indian studio photography between the 1880s and the 1980s. The installation includes groupings of photographs organized first by an image classification model (VGG16) and then further by my intuition. Each group is represented by a central node image, a composite averaging all of the images within the cluster. At the centre of the wall a video includes oral interviews with family members reflecting on the photographs, and S.T.A.R.S. Archive researchers sharing insights on the particularities of eastern studio archives and family albums in relationship with the western view. On the opposite wall are six gold risograph prints on black paper, each showcasing a composite image from a cluster. Along with the physical installation, I've created a new digital commission (https://unthinking.photography/projects/akin/'). The interactive website invites visitors to pull apart each of the photographs included on the composites. Through this process, the provenance and protagonists of each image are revealed, along with other anthropological and cultural indicators. The contextualising information offers further understanding about the historically shifting notions of individual and collective representation within colonial and post-colonial contexts.

Studies in Tamil Studio Archives and Society(stars.archive) is a multidisciplinary research collective which aims to investigate the history of Tamil studio photography between the 1880s and the 1980s as well as to protect and promote the rich and vulnerable productions photographic productions.

Installation view. Photograph by Ollie Harrop. Installation view. Photograph by Ollie Harrop. Installation view. Photograph by Ollie Harrop. gold risograph prints on black paper. Photo by Ollie Harrop. gold risograph print on black paper of one of the clusters Photograph by Ollie Harrop. close-up of video and clusters. Photo by Ollie Harrop. close-up of clusters. Photo by Ollie Harrop.

Kolam Series

2020 - code, embossing on cyanotype, ongoing experiments.

Based on typical South Indian (dot) Kolam patterns, kolam designs were produced based on facial recognition data from family photographs. I took one photograph of my maternal grandmother, one of my mother and one of my paternal grandmother and translated each number in each corresponding facial recognition vector into a component of the kolam pattern, producing three distinct kolam designs. I then embossed these patterns onto cyanotype prints of the corresponding photographs.

Detail photograph of embossing on an image of my paternal grandmother and an embossing with my maternal grandmother

In addition to working with facial recognition data, I have also been developing systems of translating text to Pulli Kolams using binary codes as an intermediary step. Below you will see some examples of this as well and diagrams explaining the translation process.

translating my late uncle's nickname into a kolam pattern and sunprinting this pattern onto a Paan leaf to make an ephemeral memorial. An example of an alternative spiralized translation method.

Cloud9.garden (*Group Project)

2020 - Website, generative system.

The CLOUD9 Memorial Garden is a space for collective remembrance with care, gentleness and respect. Pandemic times limit how we can gather to mourn and remember. During periods of mass loss and isolation, creating intentional spaces to enact and celebrate collective memory is vital. Our community continues to plant new seeds for all of ours that we have lost in this time, due to state violence, due to Covid and due to the continued systems centered on harming Black people, Indigenous people, brown people, low income people, trans people, undocumented people, and marginalized people. We invite you to transform personal grief into collective healing, growth and liberation.

The Cloud9.garden virtual memorial is a collaborative effort between myself, BUFU, Chiara Marcial Martinez, Zai Aliyu, and Melanie Hoff.
* My specific contributions included developing a system by which unique memorial flowers could be generated for each dedication. This flower system uses p5js. You can visit the garden at cloud9.garden.

Sadly, due to this website's dependency on Airtable, this memorial will become defunct in November 2022. Willing to help us save it? Please reach out at aarati.akkapeddi@gmail.com.

flower generative design iterations & screenshot of dedication submission form

After Goya

January 2020 - Code, Intaglio.

This work was created with the help of El Museo Goya Fundación Ibercaja as part of a residency with Etopia Center for Art & Technology in Zaragoza, Spain. A generative adversarial network is trained on Goya's etchings from Los Caprichos, Los Desastres de la Guerra, & Los Disparates. The outputs are used to then laser etch plates and create intaglio prints. In training a machine learning model on Goya’s etchings, I was interested in generating images that would still reflect an aesthetic essence from the originals. While the generated images are quite abstract, features such the use of chiaroscuro and the compositional structure still carry through.

etching & gallery view (photo taken by Julian Fallas) comparison with original etchings