Tag Archives: Meditation

Displaced History and the Art of Collective Memory

Somewhere in Switzerland there’s a municipal archive, the collective memory of a town, with negatives and newspapers and postcards and photographs that tell the story of the area from 1880–1940. It’s the collective paper memory of the place, including a picture of four children who might not have grown into respected elders, a picture of a priest who may have performed important rituals in the town, a picture of a young woman whose face you might recognize—if the town’s memories are your own.

On the other hand, for photographer Nicolas Dhervillers, who spent only six months residing in Sion, the people in those images were more like characters in a play he would write. Acting the parts to which the photographer assigned them, they appear throughout a series called My Sentimental Archives which will be exhibited at Galérie Bacqueville in Lille, France through Nov. 20. In a meditation on appropriation, each photograph is a two-in-one. Dhervillers’ landscape photography from the area was subjected to a digital process adapted from the cinematic “day for night” technique, lending an eerie look to pictures taken in broad daylight; the archival figures are placed within those landscapes and washed with the unnatural digital light.

“It was very important to find a technique that gives an impression of being ‘outside time,’” Dhervillers told TIME in an email. “Thus, it’s not about a simple photograph but rather a photograph that mixes different mediums that I particularly like: theater for the positions and attitudes of the characters, movies for the light, photography for the idea of controlling the framework, painting for the final rendering.”

Each figure from the archives—small, dusty, black and white people—has been carefully restored by Dhervillers. And, in the process of restoration, the photographer says he felt that the images raised a spiritual question: can we create a present, a now, out of the scraps of the past? “The appropriation of the collective memory, of photographic memory, overlaps with the desire to question a picture in a larger sense,” he said. “This series takes us into a fictional space outside of time, through the photographic processing.”

Dhervillers has worked with appropriated figures before; his series Tourists uses images taken from the internet. But in this case, in the end, his questions about photographic appropriation took on another dimension: the archives from which Dhervillers took the figures did, in a way, become “his.” Even if he didn’t share the town’s history, he felt he knew its inhabitants well. “I spent a lot of time with these little characters,” he said. “I raised them, I colorized them, I gave them life.”

This interview has been translated from French.


Nicolas Dhervillers is a Paris-based photographer represented by School Gallery/Olivier Castaing in Paris.

Andres Gonzalez – Somewhere

 

Andres Gonzalez was on a seemingly ideal photo trajectory. He was selected for the PDN 30 class of 2006 and was a 2007-2008 Fulbright Fellow. His clients included Newsweek, Monocle and Time. But not everything was sunny and f16

This series started soon after I left the photo agency I was with about a year and a half ago. They had submitted a series I made in Ukraine to an Italian magazine, and when I translated the text I found that they had rewritten some of my statement to give it a newsy slant. That really made me angry and soon after that I decided to leave the agency. It pretty much amounted to wanting more control over my work and how it was presented. That was the catalyst that pushed me to start putting this project together. The idea of storytelling has always been problematic for me, especially after moving abroad. For a long time I forced myself to tell other people’s stories because thats what journalists are supposed to do. Now I really just want to learn to see through my own eyes, to find my center and find a balance between being intentional and being open to the world. Looking for pictures has always been a form of meditation and I want my work to reflect that. Maybe that’s a bit soft, or perhaps even self-indulgent but thats really what I’m looking for. I love how quiet the world gets when you engage in deep observation. There is a loneliness there and I’m intrigued by that kind of beauty. I guess I want to believe there is room for everything.

SOMEWHERE

The passenger steps out onto the overcast deck and remembers a line. Soft was the sun. The wind to his back, he is facing the stern and an endless trail of thoughts drifting away from him towards the horizon. He wants no words, only to enjoy the delicate anticipation of a moment waiting to reveal itself. What are the limits of language? This is the mind, felt, not spoken. He makes a photograph of a seagull, and does not resist the emotion that brings.

There is a town passing by on the starboard side of the ship, the mind-boggling, awe-inspiring, crazy-making, world of people. He is happy for the distance, but knows that the idea of separation is an illusion. Everything exists according to the laws of nature. There is a core, it seems. The sea turns grey for a moment, the lights from the town slowly dimming, overtaken by fog. He makes another photograph of the fading light, the soft presence of time. The ship begins to slow, ahead a port, another journey.

Andres Gonzalez spends most of his time in Istanbul, Turkey but is spending Fall 2011 teaching at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.

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Laura Noel



All images © Laura Noel

Another notable submission we’ve received recently is Laura Noel’s Fiction, an introspective meditation on postmodernism and the self. Noel is an American photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia, who originally pursued her BA in Public Policy Studies and later graduated from the University of Georgia with an MFA in Photography.

Noel has developed a unique way of working with her images, the reasons for which she expands upon in her statement about Fiction:

“My photographs are like the first sentence of a short story, only the ending can never be certain. I pair images together to enhance the narratives I sense and build up in my mind while working in the street surrounded by strangers I can never really know, but feel a connection to. I am fascinated by the strong emotions that emanate from people isolated on the streets and in social settings. Occasionally the presence of manmade objects is powerful enough that people become superfluous and do not appear in the image.

I fracture these incomplete stories into diptychs so the line where the two images meet becomes the seam between fact and fiction, reality and longing, the universal and the personal. The structure of the image supports the concept behind the picture. The major theme running through Fiction is the struggle to maintain individuality in an increasingly homogeneous society. This is something I feel acutely in my own life and see reflected in others.

Through photography my life becomes intertwined with the people and places I see. By focusing my camera on certain people,I am making them a part of my life. These people catch my attention, because their appearances and actions touch something in my past or confront some of my concerns. It seems natural that these images be diptychs joining my real life with the imagined lives of others.”

Noel has clearly been very active, and aside from working as an adjunct professor at Emory University, she has exhibited internationally including festivals, galleries and museums in China, the US and Germany.

Her photographs have also notably appeared in on-line and in print in Photography Now, Photography Quarterly, PHOTONEWS (Germany)and Lens Culture.

For more of Fiction, other projects and information on Noel visit www.lauranoel.com