Barthes and my dearest aunt

My dearest aunt passed away last week. Her name is Maria, but she was always nameless to me. She was always the aunt. She was one of my grandmother’s two sisters. But I never met my grandmother, Francelina, and the aunt sort of occupied that place: the place of mother, for my mother, and the place of grandmother, for me (and I would suppose my brother as well).

All my life she lived on the other side of the Atlantic, in Canada. She, her sister Maria and their husbands emigrated long ago and built their families there. But they visited every year, often more than once. So even the seeds of that emotional proximity were always shortened by the temporal and physical distance.

Her death is uncanny, in many ways, the distance being the trigger of these strangely familiar feelings. My difficulty in experiencing her disappearance got me thinking about her portraits and the very few photographs I took of her, for they have become the only way to conceptualize her death.

She fell ill very suddenly and her death followed quickly. After it happened, her daughter and granddaughters posted portraits of her on facebook and it started to happen: every time I looked at her portrait I failed to realize her disappearance. That failure was more or less dramatic, depending on the photograph in question.

As was expected, a portrait taken by me would prove to be the most complicated photograph to look at (this is the only portrait I found of her, can’t even find the original negatives).

portrait aunt
© Sofia Silva, “the aunt”, n.d.

Photography is always about death, whether because it kills the reality it chooses to immortalize or because it simply kills the subjects’ existence. This takes me immediately back to Barthes and La Chambre Claire. Every portrait can be, as he explains, an authentication of a person’s existence. However, that person’s existence, which the photograph apprehends, is not the sum of the contours of her/his body and face, but the “expression of truthfulness”, her/his aura.

I recognize my aunt’s aura in this portrait only because this photograph (every photograph) is the sum of several projections: how she wanted me to see her; how she thought she would look best, how I thought she felt about me, how I thought she would look best, etc, etc. In the end, the aura of the subject in the photograph is not hers, but mine, for when she surrenders herself to the photograph, she immediately ceases to be the subject in the photograph and transforms herself in the object of my affections.

The realms of the truth and the false seduce me, but I’m aware of how difficult it is to trace and walk the bridge between the two. In fact, I feel obliged to even think of a passage, from one stage to the other, and only because the art of lying and deceiving has fallen in the realm of the mundane and the ordinary.

Anyway, “the “expression of truthfulness” mentioned by Barthes is an expression of what is true for me, albeit that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the qualities of that expression. Qualities that before having an aesthetic dimension have an ethical, a philosophical and a psychological one, for we’re talking about being. A photograph is its forms, its colors, its lines… but what is represented in a photograph is the being of the photographer and the affective relation he/she establishes with the symbolic universes he/she chooses to render photographable.

In the aunt’s photograph I recognize her. Our togetherness is materialized. Because she will live on in that memory I fail to realize she is no longer photographable…

٠ From maturity to sincerity: a glimpse at the art of documentary photography ٠

7.Julia_from_I_Have_Something_To_Tell_You© Adrain Chesser, Juliann (left) and Julia (right), from the series I Have Something to Tell You.

excerpt of Adrian’s statement:

When I tested positive for HIV and was diagnosed with AIDS, I had an extreme physical reaction whenever I thought about having to tell my friends and family. Looking at this reaction more closely, I realized that it was the same reaction I had as a kid whenever I had to disclose something uncomfortable to my parents, fearing rejection or even abandonment if larger secrets were revealed.

It occurred to me that it might be possible to overcome this paralyzing fear by photographing my friends as I told them about my diagnosis. I invited each friend to come to my studio to have their picture taken, a simple head shot for a new project. They weren’t given any other information. For a backdrop I used the curtains from the living room of the house I grew up in. I put everyone through the same routine, creating a formal process that proved to be transformative. At the beginning of each shoot I would start by saying, “I have something to tell you”.

Each sitter’s reaction was unique depending upon their own experience of loss, illness and death, creating a portrait of unguarded, unsettling honesty. As a collective, the body of work speaks to the universal experience. The phrase “I have something to tell you” is often the preface for life-altering disclosures: pregnancies, deaths, love affairs, illnesses of all kinds, winning the lottery. The phrase becomes a kind of mile-marker in a life, delineating what came before from what comes after.

Cowboys_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Cowboys, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Easter_Sunday_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Easter Sunday, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Fronds_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Fronds, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Graveside_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Graveside, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

On_The_Day_I_Was_Raped_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, On the day I was raped, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Self_Portrait_Crying_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Self Portrait Crying, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Sunday_Dinner_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Sunday Dinner, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

The_Deluge_No.10_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, The Deluge No. 10, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Adrian’s statement:

In 2000 I decided that I would return to where I grew up, to photographically document what it was like in to live in a small town in South Florida at the turn of the millennium. After shooting for a month, deeply disturbing memories from my childhood began to surface, which triggered a nervous breakdown. When I returned home I went into therapy. It occurred to me that if I could make a photographic representation of these specific events from my childhood, I could own them outside of myself as an object and that these memories would no longer hold a shadowy power over my subconscious.

From 2001 to 2011 I returned to Florida at least once a year to make images with friends and family. I would either recreate specific events or I would stay present in my process for images to arise that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded. In the end what I remembered was my resilience and defiance as a child in the face of an overwhelmingly large and seemingly unsafe world. What that came to mean for me as an adult, was the realization that the spectres of my past had no real substance, as if they were only made up of vapor and light.

٠ Adam Lach’s portrait of Stigma ٠

f589ee9592885034b9602fd0c4541e0f© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 10.03.2013 Poland. Roma girl, Karolina. Karolina escaped from her parents home (from different part of Poland) because of big love to Alex, one of the slums inhabitant.

2abe316e80333ec419f8df055ae9aa5a© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 27.03.2012 Poland Florica family in their barack. From left: Aleksander (mental handicapped after car crash), Adam, Florica, Elvecian, Bunia (mental handciapped) and Taissa who is seven months gone.

e7ac41b9412fc6f601119b8b6ffc0e14© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 20.06.2013 Poland Roma Woman, Myndra.

94c5dfff77d78b248bd3ef5eee4e49c8© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 29.06.2012 Poland Roma woman, Malena with a cigarette. Malena dreams to go to Berlin – she is estranged from family.

Adam’s statement: It is easy to fight for the rights of people who shout out loud in protest. It is much more difficult to notice those who do not manifest openly. The Stigma Project tells the story of the 60 -member family of Romanian Roma, living in an encampment on the outskirts of the city of Wroclaw in Poland. But this is not another chapter of a colorful Gypsy legend, to which the Roma community is often wrongly classified. Limiting the photo sessions to the location of the Dog Field – the district of Wroclaw occupied by the Roma slums – I deprived the recipient of the opportunity to observe the Roma people during what is commonly considered to be their everyday life – begging and theft. Surrounded by family, separated from the rest of society, they turn out to be completely different people, unfitting the conventional ideas. There are no typical camps with campfires, songs and spells – instead, there are good people with unusual interior and dramatic life stories, hurt by many whom they met on their way. They struggle not only with severe everyday life, but also with the city authorities and neighbors. They have a reputation of being beggars, thieves and crooks, among the local inhabitants, which causes frequent acts of aggression against them. All the actions of municipal authorities, with a view to solve the Roma problem, are leading to attempts to intimidate and evict them.
This story of the Roma, is primarily a story about family, relationships and emotions of people, who despite all, seem happy and peaceful. It is also an attempt to analyze the condition of the modern family, on the border between tradition and modernity. This group of nomads , dependent on the constant search for a better world , unconsciously surrenders to the influence of mass culture, struggling with the same concerns as any modern man.

4b84b622f037a05b8630652b5e213f28© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 22.10.2012 Poland Kalici’s wife Eva carries Zyna.

6c7cad948f4c8f5902ec7198ed5f5ae9© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 16.04.2013 Poland Roma digging hole for garbage.

2a46583c33b9ac8716b651bcdfb5cca9© Adam Lach, Wroclaw 09.09.2012 Poland Roma boy flexing its muscles.

We can distinguish two changes that have together made the modern preoccupation with identity and recognition inevitable. The first is the collapse of social hierarchies, which used to be the basis for honour. I am using “honour” in the ancient regime sense in which it is intrinsically linked to inequalities. For some to have honour in this sense it is essential that not everyone have it. This is the sense in which Montesquieu uses it in his description of monarchy. Honour is intrinsically a matter of “preferences.” It is also the sense we use when we speak of honouring someone, by giving her some public reward, say the Order of Canada. Plainly this would be without worth if tomorrow we decided to give it to every adult Canadian.

As against this notion of honour, we have the modern notion of dignity, now used in a universalist and egalitarian sense, where we talk of the inherent “dignity of human beings,” or of citizen dignity. The underlying premiss here is that everyone shares in this. This concept of dignity is the only one compatible with a democratic society, and it was inevitable that the old concept of honour be marginalized. But this has also meant that the forms of equal recognition have been essential to democratic culture. For instance, that everyone should be called Mister, Mrs, or Miss, rather than some people being called Lord or Lady, and others simply by their surnames, or, even more demeaning, by their first names, has been thought crucial in some democratic societies, such as the U.S.A. And more recently, for similar reasons, Mrs and Miss have been collapsed into Ms. Democracy has ushered in a politics of equal recognition, which has taken various forms over the years, and which now has returned in the form of demands for the equal status of cultures and of genders.

But the importance of recognition has been modified and intensified by the understanding of identity emerging with the ideal of authenticity. This was also in part an offshoot of the decline of hierarchical society. In those earlier societies, what we would now call a person’s identity was largely fixed by his or her social position. That is, the background that made sense of what the person recognized as important was to a great extent determined by his or her place in society and whatever role or activities attached to this. The corning of a democratic society doesn’t by itself do away with this, because people can still define themselves by their social roles. But what does decisively undermine this socially derived identification is the ideal of authenticity itself. As this emerges, for instance with Herder, it calls on me to discover my own original way of being. By definition, this cannot be socially derived but must be inwardly generated.

excerpt from Charles Taylor, in The Ethics of Authenticity.

┐ roots & fruits #9 – Miguel Godinho └

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled, from the series Esta é a minha família (This is my family), 2011

© Miguel Godinho, 38 years old (left) + 40 years old (right), from the series 16-06-1950, 2008

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled, from the series Family, 2005

© Miguel Godinho, Untitled (left + right), from the series Entre nós (Amongst us), 2010

Miguel Godinho’s (b. 1984) photography is not easy to describe, not because it is abstract, overly conceptualized or devoided of content, but because it is simple (albeit symbolic) and unpretentious.

Miguel’s body of work fluctuates between intimate moments and a sterile portrait (in the composition) of the world around him. The domestic scenes reveal some kind of obsession with the question of identity, dependent on family history and memory. On the other hand, the outdoor photographs accentuate the distance between nature/landscape and an environment built/invaded by man.

While the images vary from landscapes, portraits and still life, the empty spaces within the narrative allow us not only to understand the author’s personal journey as well as how it forms part of a sociological portrait of his country and its culture.

More of Miguel’s work here

┐ Scott Alario └

© Scott Alario, all Untitled, from the project Our Fable

“I’m in the process of building a folk tale for my daughter. It is a paternal inevitability to make up stories for one’s children, and for me, doing so has recently become the passion in my creative practice.

There are two photographs I remember from my childhood that play directly into this work. The first is a studio portrait of my father’s mother, made immediately before leaving Italy to immigrate to the United States. We would call the photograph the “gypsy picture” while I was growing up, and in doing so the image has taken on a magic, epic role. In the picture, my grandmother stands stoic as an eight year old. Her timeless eyes represent so much to me. In her face is the face of the 100-year-old woman I know now and it’s the face of my daughter. It is one of wisdom and will, and it fills me with awe.

The second picture that I carry in my mind is a portrait of a Sami family, reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia. Magic fl ows out of this image, too. It comes from my mother’s mom, whose Norwegian bloodline is only fi ctitiously connected to the Sami. Although I imagine being related to these people, the image hangs in the house like an offering to our ancestry. I see the face of my late uncle in the proud, piped and weathered hero of the portrait. Having a child has got me thinking about the importance of cultural myth and ideas of ancestral wisdom. In my baby I can see our connection to the past, as well as the potential to leave bits of ourselves to posterity.

My recent work deals with my fear of failing as a father, and attempts to make something of the successful moments. I use photography to engage my daughter. Together we construct images, she leads at times, and at others I beg her to stay still. She has become, simultaneously, the impetus, a participant, and the audience. Ideas for pictures come through play; dressing in costumes we make, becoming characters, going back into nature, erecting forts, and telling stories. Inspired by those two relic-like portraits, and driven by a deep love, these images are a collaboration with my whole family through time.”

Scott’s statement. More of his great work here

┐ Helga Härenstam └

© Helga Härenstam, The Gap, from the series The Society, 2006-2008

© Helga Härenstam, Jesus, from the series The Society, 2006-2008

The Society is a fictious documentary, trough which Helga Härenstam has been looking for and/or constructing environments, scenes and events, that are based on memories from the small society where she grew up. The people photographed in these series are Härenstam herself, her family and other people that she is close to.


The series is a puzzle of pictures dealing with the borders between documentary and staged, the real and the unreal and the past and the present. The title The Society, is inspired by a place, where Helga Härenstam partly grew up. This place does have a name, but is simply called ”the society”. Härenstam found the ambiguousness of the word society interesting though it refers to a context of world politics and states that shut in and shut out citizens depending on where they are considered to belong. At the same time it refers to this small community, which basically functions in the same way, just on a minor scale.


The Society tells several stories about growing up in a rural area that slowly becomes abandoned. A transitional place is formed between the past and the present ways of how the society functions and between the past and the present way ones memory functions.

taken from HIPPOLYTE STUDIO

more of Helga’s work here

┐ Carla Cabanas └

© Carla Cabanas, Three friends, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11

© Carla Cabanas, One Little Girl, from the project What remains of what it was, 2010/11

“What remains of what once was – Cabanas Álbum), the artist invokes memory imprecision through erasing, scratching, and fading away of images belonging to her closest surrounding: family. The photographic processing torn off – accumulating in the bottom of the frame – erases information on spaces, context and characters. Just like we all unwillingly discard our personal history, until what remains is but ashes from times gone by.”

by Valter Ventura

More of Carla’s work here

┐ Heidi Kirkpatrick └

© Heidi Kirkpatrick,Mother, 2001

© Heidi Kirkpatrick,Mahjong tiles, 2011

“Portland based photographerHeidi Kirkpatrick uses photographs to transform found objects into playful pieces of art. Her images reveal a view of the world experienced by women and she prints them on film positives which she mounts within or on found objectssuch as vintage tins, blocks, boxes, copper plates, dominos and children’s toys. These wonderfully unique pieces can be handled, arranged and adorned on a table rather than hanging on a wall, allowing each object to possess its own unique interactive charm.

(…)

Kirkpatrick has struggled with a fair amount of physical pain in her life and feels that by dissecting Gray’s Anatomy and using it in this latest project it has helped her to work through her anguish. When creating the image, she prints the photograph on a film positive in the darkroom, develops it in trays, selects a page from Gray’s Anatomy then works on the pairing until she finds a combination that visually stimulates her.”

excerpt from text by Susan Burnstine

More of Heidi’s work here

┐ Amanda Tinker └

© Amanda Tinker, Untitled (Left Foot #1), work in progress, 2011

Palladium Print 8″x10″

© Amanda Tinker, Untitled (Julian with Peonies), work in progress, 2010

Palladium Print 8″x10″


“My latest work, still in progress, explores the intersection between the psychological landscape of family relationships and the body’s physical form, compromised, intact and otherwise. This work deals both specifically with the physical effects of a degenerative nerve disease in my family, and generally with the anxieties, joys and ambiguities of family life. I want to confront my own anxieties over my children potentially developing a debilitating illness, but at the same time appreciate the simplicity and overwhelming urgency of childhood.”

More of Amanda’s work here

┐ Nigel Grimmer └

© Nigel Grimmer, Julie, Golders Green,, from the series Roadkill Family Album, 2001

© Nigel Grimmer, Eric, Big Bend, from the series Roadkill Family Album, 2010

“Nigel Grimmer takes the conventions of family album snap photography and gives them a weird twist that is at times amusing and at others faintly unnerving. Here the self-conscious poses, the banal compositions, the suburban settings are infiltrated with the kinds of surrealistic incongruities that one might experience in particularly bizarre or embarrassing dreams. His Roadkill Family Album is a collection of prone portraits of family members dolled up in joke shop animal masks and seemingly abandoned as roadside victims. Grimmer’s mother is an owl, his father a frog. His use of plastic masks and dolls imbues the images with a particularly kitsch and almost perverse form of nostalgia. It’s as if childhood memories have been inextricably confused with some kind of metamorphic and macabre fairytale.”

quote from Harley Gallery

Nigel’s home here

 

┐ Kurt Tong └

© Kurt Tong, Untitled, from the series People’s Park

© Kurt Tong, Untitled, from the series People’s Park

© Kurt Tong, Untitled, from the series People’s Park

“Last year I was helping my mother sort out all the family photographs. Apart from the customary family portraits in front of the same Christmas trees and behind birthday cakes, most of the photos taken of my brother, my sisters and me were during our day trips out at various parks.
I have just a few memories of these pictures being taken. However, I still have such vivid memories of all the parks we used to go to. The penguin bins, the bumper cars, the trains and the ice cream stalls are all so clear in my mind, little snippets of memories that make up my childhood. Sadly, nearly all of these parks have long since disappeared, forever living only as memories.
This project explores similar recreational spaces found in China. In 1958, at the beginning of “The Great Leap Forward”, when private ownership was banned, many existing parks were renovated and new parks were built all across China for the people. Many were renamed People’s Park. Over the years, they became main focal points of the cities, where families had their outings and couples met. Children’s amusement parks and zoos were often built within these parks to provide entertainment for the local kids.
China is changing at a staggering pace. The “economic miracle” means that the Chinese are enjoying a much more affluent lifestyle. Shopping and internet have replaced bumper cars and Ferris wheels. As China continues to “progress” and embrace capitalism; many of these parks, a fundamental part of Communist China, have become dilapidated. However, many workers are still employed by the government to maintain these parks, and they remain open for the people.
Millions of older Chinese have grown up with these parks and have memories of time spent in them. Just like the parks, it is quite likely that personal memories of the parks are slowly fading away with time. Like the family photos I have, the photographs in this series act as a record of memories that may soon disappear entirely.”

More of Kurt’s work here

┐ Tim Roda └

© Tim Roda, Untitled #24, 2004

© Tim Roda, Untitled #138, 2007

“I started using photography, not for the love of the technical aspects of the medium, but because of its properties, both abstract and physical. It is the only medium I can use to best depict my vision of life, art and time.
Although the final product is a photograph, the work casually travels within arenas of installation, photography, film and performance. A camera is used to record one moment in time that balances between memories and constructed commentaries, yet is a documentation of “real” events for my wife, Allison, and son, Ethan.
(…)
When asked about the irregularity of the margins in my work, I explain that there is a relationship between the apparent contempt for the materials and the reverence for the subjects of the imagery. I have always said that the subject is the most important part of my work. I understand that for people from photography backgrounds the technique of my work is very distracting to the content. My work is all about metaphor. The rough edges, irregular margins, erratic fixer stains, and haphazard tonal range are suggestive of the working-class way of life that my grandfather experienced when he came to America as an Italian immigrant. This set of values was passed down to my father and then to me in all of its eccentricities. For example, my grandfather and father built our family home, swimming pool, tree fort and decks out of the same secondary wood they built our chicken house with. My father just built a two-car garage with three sides and wood that looked like a patchwork quilt.
Technically, I could print what photographers would consider to be a perfect picture, but I would consider that to be imperfect. The seeming imperfections that you see on the physical print are similar to ways that I use the materials within the photograph. The props or devices I include in the images are made of paper, wood, tape and clay—-simply because they are all mediums that are all disposable or re-usable. I have decided that it is more important for me to be myself and approach techniques and materials the way I do rather than jeopardize the integrity of my art by conforming to existing standards.”

Tim Roda, full statement here

More of Tim’s work here

┐ Daria Tuminas └

© Daria Tuminas, Untitled, from the series Ivan and the Moon

© Daria Tuminas, Untitled, from the series Ivan and the Moon

© Daria Tuminas, Untitled, from the series Ivan and the Moon

“Ivan is the elder, he is 16. Andrey, nicknamed Moon, is the younger, 14 by now. The two brothers live in a distant village in the northern part of Russia. They are not like regular teenagers, and live in a fairy tale world, yet deeply connected to nature: they go hunting and fishing, can use a joiner’s chisel, play with ghosts at abandoned places, do not want to move to a city, and love nature. Mature and childish. Naive and enigmatic. In this ongoing project I want to show the mysteriousness of the world of these brothers.

The narrative in ‘Ivan and the Moon’ is neither chronological nor event related. It does not have a strict and one-way-to-read plot. All the images are connected to each other on the level of correlated motives and on the level of hypothetical story interpretations. Each picture is supposed to provoke some inquiry about ‘What is going on?’

Moreover, the two brothers are reflections of each other. Many people might even think that they are twins. The main corpus of works contains their individual portraits, so that it is no longer clear who is who. It was also important to show that the world around the boys is itself magical and their games and fantasies are consequences of being a part of this world.

My aim is to follow the brothers through their life (I met them at a folklore expedition) and ‘document’ things that are impossible to document: the world of a boy’s fantasies, ghosts, gods, spirits of specific places, magic itself. Such things usually can not be literally depicted. As J. Szarkowski stated in his famous work ‘Mirrors and Windows’: ‘most issues of importance cannot be photographed’. My goal is to try to photograph the ‘unphotographable’ side of the matter and challenge some formal criteria of ‘classical’ documentary.”

Ivan and the Moon can be seen here

┐ Léonie Hampton └

© Léonie Hampton, Untitled, from the series Autonomy, the Cariou Family – France

© Léonie Hampton, Untitled, from the series Autonomy, the Cariou Family – France

The Cariou family Live an autonomous life in Provence. Faced with the huge cost of property in their area they were fortunate to buy a small olive grove in which they have designed and built their home.
 Their goal is to move as far as possible from the use of non-renewable fuel. They get enough electricity from a 140-watt solar panel to provide them with light and music throughout the year. A pump draws water from the river to a tank. In winter they use solar energy to heat the water, as the river is too cold and the current too strong for bathing.
“The state puts everything into ones hands but one must always work to sustain that materialistic way of life. Money serves to make the system function and people become slaves to it.”
They want to have as little to do with this system as possible. Yanick sustains the family with his earnings from olive, apricot and lavender farming. 
They do not have neighbours.
“It is our choice to live unseen. It is not easy to live in a different way with others watching. No neighbours, no worries. Maybe one day we will have problems but we will find ways. To take the decision to live in this way is a form of combat against modern materialistic life. And we will fight for that decision.”

More of Léonie’s work here

┐ Kathleen Robbins └

© Kathleen Robbins, Untitled, from The Hostess Project

“In an effort to further inhabit my grandmother’s memories as a young wife, I began an autobiographical, photographic record of my experiences with her recipe journal. This ongoing project is as much a social experiment as a nostalgic experience. I dress in her clothing, prepare meals based on her hand-written recipes, serve invited guests, and perform the role of hostess. I prepare dishes based on her hand-written instruction: her recipes. Aspics, croquettes, meatloaf with pickle and egg garnish . . . And I photograph the results.


In all of my work, I am interested in trying to create larger units of meaning through editing. With The Hostess Project, the photographs and the handwritten recipes are interwoven into sequences and pairs, which illustrate a more complex experience, divided in time and space. Tiny’s recipe journal includes details about intimate family gatherings. I prepare the recipes, not to recreate their associated events. (To recreate any of these gatherings, a deceased family member’s birthday celebration for instance, seems oddly irreverent; see Figure 2.) Rather, the performance of the meal is about inhabiting certain aspects of my grandmother’s memory. The recipe book reveals something compelling about Tiny’s friendships, her marriage, my grandfather’s suicide, and her subsequent years spent alone on the farm. Lists of ingredients are scrawled on the backs of envelopes and scraps of yellowed paper. The book is stained with drips of grease and drops of cream. If my grandfather enjoyed a dish, this is noted in the margin. Recipes are revisited and journal entries revealed first, the details of dinner parties and holidays and, later, why it was too unbearably sad to prepare my grandfather’s favorite dishes. In this respect, the food becomes almost beside the point.”

excerpt from Kathleen’s article on The Hostess Project

More of Kathleen’s work here

║ Emmanuelle Antille ║

© Emmanuelle Antille, at the Leu Family’s Family Iron, from the series Leu Family’s Family Iron, 2007

© Emmanuelle Antille, Family Portrait, from the series Leu Family’s Family Iron, 2007

║ Erik Osberg ║

© Erik Osberg, Erik and Carl, 1988, from the series Layla, Ryan, Erik, and Carl, 2007

© Erik Osberg, from the series Layla, Ryan, Erik, and Carl

“I think photography and writing are very similar, in so far as their various forms and traditions are simultaneously concrete and elastic. There are people who make genre-based work: romance, sci-fi, biography, portrait, landscape, journalism, etc. And there is an audience of people who expect these genres, as well (imagine yourself working in a used bookstore being barked at about the whereabouts of How the Scots Invented the Modern World, or going to your parent’s friends house who have a framed poster of the Avedon picture of the woman and the elephants). But there are also people who have ideas and proceed to work them out using one of the numerous known forms available, or an amalgam of various forms. All this to say that contemporary cultural production may be presented in a relatively unlikely package, which is probably pretty obvious. I have ideas that I want to make public and I work them out most commonly with pictures.”

More of Erik’s work can be seen here

║ Sarah Mei Herman ║

© Sarah Mei Herman, Julian and Jonathan, from the series Jonathan and Julian, 2007

© Sarah Mei Herman, Julian and Jonathan, from the series Jonathan and Julian, 2009

“I am fascinated by relationships between people: The physical closeness or distance between them, and the importance of this physical proximity to others. I mainly focus on family intimacy, with a special interest in sibling relationships.My younger half-brother Jonathan is an important subject in my work: a nine-year-old boy who has the ability to completely withdraw into his inner world. Throughout the last few years I have been photographing Jonathan alone or together with our father. I’m interested in the ‘triangular’ relationship between the three of us. My memories as a young child, of the relationship with my father, are somehow mirrored in my half-brother.”

More of Sarah’s work here

║ Augusta Wood ║

© Augusta Wood, Sesame Street, from the series I have only what I remember , 1980/ 2008

© Augusta Wood, Planting Geraniums, from the series I have only what I remember , 1987/ 2008

“Augusta Wood explores the persistence of memory, and the ways in which imagery and text can interact to shape meaning of experience. (…)
Her latest series I have only what I remember (2009) investigates further the ways photography can elicit meaning from the personal archive that is memory. Revisiting the center of her early life, Wood projects into the empty rooms of her grandparents’ former home multiple, overlapping family snapshots of the artifacts, figures, and circumstances that shaped her past experiences, and thus, her present memories. As constructions of the documented past, Wood’s photographs urge us to recall for ourselves the former presence of rooms and relationships that shape our current selves.”

Edward Robinson

More of Augusta’s work can be seen here