‘Past Present' was made in collaboration with Getty's British archives and is one of Heck’s first experiments with photographic appropriation. Selected from thousands of previously unused pictures spanning over a century of the archive’s English, Welsh, and Scottish collections, the photographs serve as background plates for Guinevere Van Seenus to newly inhabit.
Created to show how little fashion has changed over time, the series realizes a continuity between both classic and contemporary gestures and wardrobe, expressing a broader continuity unique to the photographic medium that runs counter to the usual conception of photography as a truthful record. Fundamentally appropriative of all it captures and incorporates, photography draws no distinction between what it makes and what it borrows, or between its past and present subjects. It lends its reality equally to all—and in placing such equally realized subjects side-by-side, it is capable of creating a coexistence that is neither true nor false, but simply photographic in nature.
Drawing on past and present alike for their materials, these photographs reduce their subjects to surreal aesthetic entities. Alongside the strangely living images of the past, Van Seenus becomes equally ghostly, her humanity—and theirs—transcended by a purely photographic existence.