Tag Archives: Young Woman

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.

Marisol and the American Dream: One Photographer’s 15-Year Project

Janet Jarman discovered Marisol, the young woman she has been photographing for more than 15 years, by chance. While working toward her Master’s degree in environmental studies, Jarman took a research trip to Mexico in August 1996. There, activist nuns brought her to a municipal dump in Matamoros, located along the U.S.-Mexico border. Amid the smoke, fires and sewage, Jarman noticed Marisol, then 8 years old, looking for recyclable items to sell with her family, who had dreams of moving to America. “Let the woman take your picture,” Marisol’s mother said. “You might be famous one day.”

They were prescient words, indeed. Jarman’s photograph of Marisol in the dump has received several industry awards and has been published by various publications and non-governmental organizations around the world. Earlier this year, the photographer even discovered that the portrait had appeared in the campaign materials of a Mexican presidential candidate; the country will hold its presidential election July 1.

“I was always upset by how unauthorized immigrants were dehumanized in their depiction,” says Jarman, who has lived in Mexico since 2004. “I wondered what could happen if there was a face to this human issue and people could better understand what was driving immigrants to move across the border.”

The immigration debate won’t just be part of the Mexican presidential elections next month; it will also play a large role in the U.S. presidential elections this November. After the Dream Act—which sought to provide paths to permanent residency and citizenship to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors—stalled for years in Congress, president Barack Obama announced a policy change that would prevent some undocumented youth from deportation earlier this month. In following Marisol’s life—which has taken the photographer from Mexico to Florida to Texas—Jarman says she’s tried to capture this greater immigration story through the life of an individual. “Marisol’s story represents the story of thousands of immigrants, particularly women in her age group,” Jarman says. “To see her grow up and face so many challenges and still keep a very positive attitude—all while continuing to have this maturity beyond her years—has made me really respect her as a woman.”

Some of those challenges have included unplanned pregnancies that prevented Marisol from graduating high school. Still, Jarman says, Marisol, who lives with her husband in central Texas, strives to achieve the American Dream. “She wants to get out of the poverty cycle, have financial stability and provide a life for kids that’s better than her own,” she says. “And that story speaks to a lot of immigrants, which is why I wanted to follow a family, or individual, over time. One of the best ways to provide an understanding of immigrants is to not treat people as statistics.”

Janet Jarman is a photographer based in Mexico. See more of her work here.

Young Russia: Stefan Bladh in Kaliningrad

Russia’s presidential elections came after a season of protests for fair elections, and Vladimir Putin enters a new term in which he will have to confront unrest among the public, accusations of corruption and calls for modernization.

Among that outspoken public is Russia’s youth, a group Swedish photographer Stefan Bladh captured in the summer of 2011 in Kaliningrad. The city of Kaliningrad is not unlike most places in Russia today: plagued by poor social programs, low paying jobs and widespread unemployment. “Life is obviously hard here,” the photographer says. “Corruption is widespread, even up to the Kremlin, everybody is aware of that. The phrase ‘I take care of my business, and you take care of yours’ seems to be prevalent. The remains of the old Soviet system still exist. Better submit than to fight with authorities. Keep quiet about politics.”

During his summer in Kaliningrad, Bladh heard many stories from friends who weren’t being paid for their work, including a young woman who hadn’t been paid for three months. She has yet to complain to her boss over fears of retaliation.

“The years with Putin, according to many critics, have been a major setback for the country,” Bladh says. “Regime critics say that 12 more years with Putin will mean stagnation, a disaster.”

But that resulting pessimism is limited to those who have crossed the “invisible boundary” of 25 years of age, according to the photographer. Those beyond that line have no hope for their country, he says. On the other hand, the young Russians remained positive. They were eager to stop and talk to Bladh, who had trouble engaging with older people on the street. The young people wanted to have their portraits taken and discuss the future. ”The hope for having a good life here is still alive,” says Bladh.

Stefan Bladh is a Stockholm-based photographer. See more of his work here.

Two books by Mariken Wessels



The last artist book Mariken Wessels published was a narrative of found material she discovered in an Amsterdam shop. Elisabeth – I Want To Eat is an assemblage of old photographs, postcards and letters that describe a young woman’s life budding and then, rather shockingly, leading towards depression and, what I read as, an implied suicide. It is a reconstruction which blends some fact with loads of interpretation.

In one of the letters translated from Dutch, Elisabeth’s aunt, in an attempt to help Elisabeth think differently about her life writes, “But unpicking yourself, that can be done, why am I doing this, couldn’t I do it better (for me and for everyone else) in a slightly different way? Each little thing builds the whole. In accordance with the same system as all matter is built up from molecules and atoms.” This suggestion of parsing and twisting the events of her life is also the strategy Wessels employs in these works. We grapple with trying to understand this life presented to us through only a few pieces of ephemera which insists that our own twist of psychology intervene.

Wessels’ newest artist book, Queen Ann. P.S. Belly Cut Off from Alauda Publications is a look into a life of a woman named Anneka.

Anneka appears to be a woman haunted by loneliness and obesity yet she puts forth a fun-loving and warm, if at times slightly demented, demeanor. When we are shown recent images of her, she (or the artist) has painted their surfaces with adornments such as brightly colored hats or veils or cut out parts of herself in the pictures with shears. In some, she adds a second coat of lipstick or nail-polish that transforms her into an over-the-top eccentric where we might question her sanity.

In one image from which the title refers, she writes, “In a way I really do feel like a “Queen.” I think that fits. Although lacking the wealth but perhaps like our image of famous queens, Ann is also slightly lonely, unsatisfied, and displays vengeful violent streaks which in this case, she plays out on her own image rather than others. She seems to mock even her own ideas of beauty in how she “improves” the picture makes herself presentable – all ribbons and bows with make-up dripping from her eyes.

In both Queen Ann and Elisabeth, sexuality is an overt presence. In Elisabeth a suite of scratched nude photos (think G.P. Fieret) is presented, perhaps made as self-portraits or by a lover. In Queen Ann, photography as a somewhat transgressive act is also included – that of what appears to be a middle interlude of stills from a sex film (with Ann as the star?). This is followed by a more recent image of Ann holding an image of herself as a young attractive teenager – the weight of wishing for the past is felt.

Although melancholy in overall tone, Ann’s unique character and playfulness outshine her underlying problems with aging and self image. The last images, shot on super-8 film, show her running and twirling, arms outspread, in a forest. A smile is sensed through the grainy and blurred image just before she disappears behind a stand of trees.

As with many contemporary books from The Netherlands, both of these are beautiful objects. The care and attentiveness to “the book” is felt but never trumps the content. In Elisabeth, English translations from Dutch type-written on green tissue paper are loosely laid in are a wonderful touch, and Queen Ann includes a sealed glassine envelope of 4×6 inch snapshots. It isn’t clear if this last element, the glassine, is meant to be torn open or whether the images are meant to be viewed through the translucent paper (the metaphoric haze of memory?). You decide. Maybe in that case, collectors should buy two.