Remembering Raissa

On the anniversary of Raissa Page’s death, archivist, writer and researcher, David Johnston-Smith gives an update on activities to celebrate the photographer’s life and work.

Today is the 10th anniversary (28 July 2011) of the death of photographer, Raissa Page, whose archive we were lucky enough to receive in 2014, and which was later catalogued as part of a Wellcome Trust funded 12-month project in 2018-19 (catalogue now available online). To mark the occasion I thought it would be an opportune time to provide a brief update on the current project to both research and write a book on Raissa’s life, work and archive, and to digitise the collection.

The 12-month privately funded project began in September 2020 but has suffered some inevitable delays due both to the Covid-19 pandemic and to staff illness. The research and writing part of the project will now complete in early November, and the current intention is that the book will appear some time during 2022. We are currently in the process of finalising the choice of a publisher to work with. It is important to everyone involved in the project that the book is as aesthetically pleasing as it will hopefully also be interesting and intellectually stimulating.

The book will contain an extensive range of Raissa’s photography from the late 1970s to the early 1990s along with biographical sections, reflections on her artistic and technical capabilities, analysis of how her work might be used in academic research, and a brief introduction to Format, the ground-breaking all-female photographic agency of which she was a founder member. It has never been intended that this book would be the last word on Raissa, but instead it is meant to act as both an introductory work, and as an encouragement to further research and exploration.

I have been delighted to have the opportunity to be able to talk to former social work colleagues of Raissa (the career she followed in the 60’s and 70’s), Format photographic colleagues, friends from the women’s movements that formed during the miners’ strike, and also to friends and neighbours who knew her during the last decades of her life in Wales. Underpinning everything – both literally and metaphorically – has been Raissa’s ‘rock’, Adrianne Jones, who donated the archive to us, and without whom the project would be little more than a rudderless pipedream.

Further details on the forthcoming publication (and how to obtain it), and what comes next for this powerful and exciting collection will be made available on our website and through social media (please follow both @RaissaPage and @SwanUniArchives). If things go a little quiet from me in the next weeks, please don’t panic, as I’m heading off to get some words down on ‘paper’ to go with the images we have now selected for use in the book. Hard work will also be continuing in Swansea as we are also currently recruiting a Digitisation Assistant to work on a six-month contract to digitise the collection, thereby making engaging with the photographic archive a considerably more straightforward experience for all.

If she’s looking down on us from afar, I do hope Raissa is pleased to see all of the interest in her photography. It’s a collection of images that means a great deal to some of us, and hopefully with the book and the digitisation it will slowly become known to many more. These images deserve to be seen.

Images by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives

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