Strong Room – Roelof Bakker & Jane Wildgoose

Artist’s book, 2014

A book collaboration with artist Jane Wildgoose exploring the historical and academic importance of paper-based archives and the potential of material qualities to prompt the imagination and evoke memories. Photographs of traces of preserved past human archival activity are used as inspiration for writing about the loss of tangible experiences and the lack of physical presence in the digital world.

Photographs showing traces of past human activity in three vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall in north London, including a Strong Room with an archive of important papers which had been left untouched for over thirty years, were taken at the same time as the work for the project Still - - with both Jane Wildgoose and me contributing writing. In her essay ‘A Visit to the Archives’, Wildgoose writes about the tactile and sensual experience of handling a book of nineteenth-century letters when visiting an archive for research purposes, and how the material qualities of the correspondence evoke haunting memories. 

Developed collaboratively, the book uses three different paper stocks, each with a unique material quality: form linking content, a bulldog clip key to the approach.

Reviewing the book in the spring 2014 issue of Source Photographic Review, Daniel Jewesbury writes :

‘Here are tiny individual deaths, of experience and knowledge and tactile memory, quotidian interactions between the mental and the physical, in the old “real” world, that world which, we now know, is merely a huge explanatory model of digital information, like those coloured balls connected with white sticks that are used to demonstrate atomic structures; a model where things with mass and dimensions in space represent data forms which, in truth, have neither. The book captures the passing into irrelevance, or historical curiosity, of the world model, and its simplicity is the key to its power.’

Photographs from the ‘Strong Room’ series previously won First Prize (Gold) at the London Photographic Association Still Life 5 competition (June 2011). Strong Room was selected for ‘Kaleid 2014’, an exhibition of fifty new European artists’ books, Art Academy, London and for ‘F Book Show’, 72 Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, an exhibition of new photography books from the UK curated by Photobookshow.

Jane Wildgoose and I gave a presentation about Strong Room in relation to material memories and the digital record on 8 June 2017 at the IABA Europe 2017 conference, Kings College, London, and we contributed a paper, ‘Strong Room: Material Memories and the Digital Record’ to the European Journal of Life Writing, Vol 7 (2018),

Negative Press London

Jane Wildgoose

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Roelof Bakker, all rights reserved, 2024