Rachel Phillips

Portfolio published in ArchivoZine 19 - New Media, In the Age of Visual Culture.


The series “Fixed” is built from interleaving layers of truth and invention.

To start, the images are the work of an alter-ego named Madge Cameron, a fictional librarian at an imaginary archive in the real city of San Francisco. The story goes that Madge, born in 1935, and her brother Morris were raised by their Victorian grandmother. As children, they spent a great deal of time in their neighborhood library, and Madge eventually earned a PhD from the Librarians Anonymous Correspondence College. She then went to work at the Pacific Library and Special Collections, where decades later she remains a devoted fixture.

Madge’s current work at the archive involves digitizing the extensive collection of historic snapshots. Being old, a bit shaky, and something of a Luddite, she discovered that by unintentionally moving the photograph mid-scan, she could separate the image into its color channels, resulting in strange effects. At first irritated with what she saw as failed work, Cameron eventually came to embrace the “process of interruption,” as she puts it. “I came to see the process as a metaphor for what I do as an archivist; each piece becomes a visual cross-reference of itself.”

The title of the series is “Fixed,” a word with myriad associations. We fix a chemical photograph to stop its development, and we fix an image in our mind. “Fixed” also implies that something broken has now been put together again. Madge Cameron’s images are remade versions of themselves, each a whole made from its own parts, “just not in quite the way it was before,” says Cameron.



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