Tag Archives: Rituals

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.

Basement Vodou: Haitian Spirituality in Brooklyn

An Irish Catholic upbringing contributed to photographer Shannon Taggarts lifelong interest in the rituals and art of religion. After photographing Spiritualistspeople who believe they can communicate with the deadin upstate New York, Taggart has since been documenting the Haitian religion of Vodou since moving to Brooklyn in 2005.

Taggarts project began when she met a Mambo, or female Vodoupriest, named Rose Marie Pierre, who runs a temple in the basement of a nondescript storefront in the working class neighborhood of Flatbush. It was here that Taggart made these images of priests and laymen undergoing possession by the Loapowerful spirits that act as intermediaries between humankind and Vodous distant god, Bondye. Most Loa are benign, some are malevolent, but every spirit has a distinct personality, role in the world and set of demands and services. In their different ways, practitioners believe, these spirits determine our fate and must be consulted and appeased.

Beckoning the Loa requires elaborate preparations unique to the particular spirit desired. Practitioners indicate the Loa they want to call upon by drawing its vever, or symbol, in cornmeal sprinkled on the floor. They place offerings on an altar and perform particular songs and dances. When the Loa possesses the worshiper Taggart says the scene becomes wild, very physical and intense. Though she works with black-and-white still images, Taggart is able to convey the noise and energy of these rituals.There is screaming and thrashingsometimes [congregants] run around the room as if confused. It can happen suddenly, so it’s often jarring. People immediately gather around the one possessed and assist them with what they need and catch them if they collapse. Practitioners say the experience induces short-term amnesia; Mambo Rose Marie is always surprised (sometimes shocked) to see my documentation of what has taken place while she was possessed, recalls Taggart.

Popular culture often depicts Vodouas dark and menacing, but fails to understand its more unusual elements. One example, animal sacrifice, exists to rejuvenate the Loa after exhausting ceremonies. Taggart says that the chickens, pigs, goats and cows are killed humanely and eaten immediately. In Haiti, where there was no safe way to store meat, the practice provided people with a regular source of safe nourishment, Taggart explained.

Another often misunderstood practice is the presence of weapons in Vodouceremonies. A man in slide #2 is shown possessed by a warrior spirit named Ogou. He holds a large machete symbolic of that Loa. But as Taggart explains, weapons like these are not used to harm others. Instead, they are relics of Haitian slavery that Vodoupractitioners have appropriated as symbols of their faithmuch as the cross is a relic of Christian persecution that Christians have turned into a symbol of their faith. These exercises, born of practical and psychological necessity, are far from the spooky behavior that appears so often in film and folklore.

This December, several of these Brooklyn practitioners will undergo a two-week long initiation rite in Haiti. Accompanying them will be Mambo Rose Marie and Taggart, who will photograph the ceremonies. Blog Commenting . I don’t know what I will find there, but I am assuming it will be a special experience, she says.

Shannon Taggart is a Brooklyn-based photographer. See more of her work here.

Pictures of the Week, December 2–December 9

From suicide bombings in Afghanistan and the U.S. pullout from Iraq to the Ashura rituals in India and Russia’s elections, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Gift of Gift of: Clare Gallagher

The Gift of Gift of Program recently purchased an image by Northern Ireland photographer, Clare Gallagher, for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston collection.

Clare Gallagher was born in Northern Ireland and studied photography in London, Canterbury, Toulouse and Belfast, earning an MFA photography with distinction. Her work has been exhibited in Belfast, Dublin, Montpellier, London and Houston and will be shown later this year in Bratislava and Delhi. Clare is also a shortlisted artist for Saatchi’s New Sensations 2011. Clare is a photography lecturer living in Northern Ireland and is currently working on a project on weeds, with support from the Arts Council NI.

This image was selected for the Gift of Gift of Program:






















Domestic Drift is concerned with everyday life – the ordinary activities, states of mind and conditions of existence that fill time outside the moments of drama and spectacle. I am interested in working with the sense of ordinariness inherent in the repetitive, habitual work of home while trying to appreciate the experience as simultaneously mundane and precious. The everyday is complex terrain. It is always there, readily and universally available; surely it is so obvious that it needs no unveiling. And yet it is also shrouded in haze, our sense of it dulled by familiarity and habit. It may induce a feeling of comfort in simple rituals or of imprisonment in tedious routine.






















Ambivalence is a central experience of everydayness but that quality also means it is difficult to define, depict and study. While the ordinary and unremarkable constitute the fabric of much of life, our attention is lured away from the quotidian toward the dramatic and exotic. This privileging of the apparent over the obscure fuels the fragmentation of everyday life and creates an impression that those parts of life lived away from the public arenas of street, workplace and media are unproductive and insignificant. The result of this “triviality barrier” is that the most ordinary, familiar parts of daily life, while seeming the most present and obvious, are often disconnected from our sensory perceptions and conscious thoughts. We are at risk of missing out a significant portion of our experience that is ever-present yet escapes attention.























Inspired by Guy Debord’s Theory of the Dérive, I began by following his directions:
In a dérive, one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.

Photographer #330: Fernando Moleres

Fernando Moleres, 1963, Spain, is a socially engaged photojournalist based in Barcelona. He started his working career as a nurse. In the beginning of his photographic career he combined his nursing work with long periods travelling and doing photographic projects. He travels extensively to various countries in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia covering stories on gender inequality, various forms of religion, traditional bathing rituals and juveniles in prison. In 2000 he released Stolen Childhood showing the story of child labour in black and white photographs. In 2009 his monograph about monastic life called Lifes of Devotion came out. For his recent series Juveniles in Prison he was awarded the Daily Life Series award by World Press Photo in 2011. The following images come from the series Juveniles in Prison, Monastic Life and Turkish Baths-Hammam.

Website: www.fernandomoleres.com

Photographer #330: Fernando Moleres

Fernando Moleres, 1963, Spain, is a socially engaged photojournalist based in Barcelona. He started his working career as a nurse. In the beginning of his photographic career he combined his nursing work with long periods travelling and doing photographic projects. He travels extensively to various countries in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia covering stories on gender inequality, various forms of religion, traditional bathing rituals and juveniles in prison. In 2000 he released Stolen Childhood showing the story of child labour in black and white photographs. In 2009 his monograph about monastic life called Lifes of Devotion came out. For his recent series Juveniles in Prison he was awarded the Daily Life Series award by World Press Photo in 2011. The following images come from the series Juveniles in Prison, Monastic Life and Turkish Baths-Hammam.

Website: www.fernandomoleres.com

Beauty and Wisdom: current photos of American women from another era

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Mrs. limousines . Milner, from the series Beauty and Wisdom, Robbie Kaye

Beauty and Wisdom documents a fast disappearing aspect of American culture (Americana) as well as a diminishing population of women who are part of a generation that is often overlooked. More important than their weekly ritual of going to the ‘beauty parlor’ is the fact that these women are extremely vibrant, wise and humorousand committed to maintaining their life-long ritual for rejuvenation and connection.

As baby boomers age, the rituals of their mothers and grandmothers will fade and become obsolete. Beauty and Wisdom documents a generation of women, aged 70 and over, who have been going regularly to the beauty parlor once a week not as a luxury, but as a necessity, for most of their adult years. This project explores the grace and courage in which these women age in a society so heavily focused on the beauty of youth. Ironically, these are the women who opened doors for future generations of women to walk through, yet they are now part of an invisible generation.

See and read more in Lens Culture.