Text by Lise Sarfati
Lise Sarfati. Christine #10 Hollywood, CA, She Series, 2006.
Documentary photography, or the new document, is that which not only lays bare the record of the real world, but also creates a unique photographic narrative where photography, its theme and the viewer all coexist. My work touches on reality but a human reality. I often find myself in a banal situation, but my aim is to surpass it, to transcend it, in order to discover the core of an existence that can be explained by the solitude of the character in her domestic intimacy, even in the hermetic space of a street or any other desert: the woman is ever alone in a crowd. She consists of moments of a brilliant history where the combined fragments ultimately form no more than a rather homogenous tale. It is a matter of compositional logic and also a wild ballad in the life of these four women. My interest in working on this theme arises from the fact that I come from a family of four sisters, and mainly to the constant bitterness caused by the dissolution of family ties between mother, sister, and aunt. I have wanted to explore the feelings of melancholy transmitted from the mother and the aunt to Christine’s two daughters: Sloane and Sasha. The latter systematically refuses to be photographed since the idea of reuniting her mother, aunt and sister in the same series seems to her absurd. There is also the play of identities between two generations that is preserved as an animal instinct. A series of photographs made over an extended time-period in California, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix between 2005 and 2009. Moments borrowed from four women: Christine, the mother; her sister Gina; Sloane, Christine’s daughter, and Sasha, Sloane’s sister. Christine’s instability, Sasha’s melancholy, Sloane’s repeated transformations, Gina’s feminine-masculine ambiguity… She describes a complex aesthetic experience fraught with history, feelings, and ghosts. The direction of the project, framed in an extended time-period, allows following its erratic development. It leaves lots of room for the autonomous construction of narrative fictions for the viewer, scenarios that are merely suggested by the images: a play of identities between Sloane and her mother- and vice versa- between Gina and her sister- or conversely- between Sasha and her mother…women who share a singular intimacy before the imminence of disaster, the discovery or premonition of it. Compressing time and mixing years, these images chosen in isolation of these four women comprise a single story. These women had no need to be photographed and it is their refusal, their resistance, which attracts us to them. Because of She, I’ve discovered the interior of a Victorian home in the Oakland ghetto, but also the urban environment of small Californian cities.
Translated by Dena Ellen Cowan
Lise Sarfati. Christine #11 San Francisco, CA, She Series, 2005.
Lise Sarfati. Gina #8 Oakland,, CA, She Series, 2005.
Lise Sarfati. Sloane #66 San Francisco, CA, She Series, 2009.
All images courtesy of the artist, Brancolini Grimaldi Gallery, London, and ROSEGALLERY, Los Angeles.