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My grandfather was an amateur photographer who used a wooden view camera to take photos. When I was about 8, I became his “assistant”, which only meant holding a leg of his tripod. I still recall those moments when I was the subject being photographed, when he showed me a piece of paper still soaked with fixer and would tell me: ‘This is you.’ That statement, which seemed more than obvious at the time, began to gain significance as the years passed. My grandfather is now gone and I am unable to clearly remember everything that I experienced in the past. However, whenever I look at that picture I can state: ‘That’s me.’
When we look at a photograph related to our experiences, our intangible and unreliable memories surrender to the printed image. The concrete photographs replace our abstract memories and our identity is reaffirmed by that set of photographs.
Similarly, in Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 film Blade Runner, advanced humanoid androids, known as Replicants, are programmed with memories so that they can recreate an “identity” and feel more human. Replicants thus become obsessed with photographs because, whenever they cannot be completely sure of the validity of their own pasts, the pictures they have collected confirm their implanted memories.
It could be said that the concept of identity refers to the global understanding that a person has of themselves. Identity is thereby composed of relatively permanent self-concepts, such as awareness of our physical features, aspects of our personality and knowledge of our abilities and skills. Besides, identity is not restricted to the current moment; it includes future or possible selves and past selves.
We started work on the series “This is You” some time ago, when a friend gave us some negatives and old postcards he had found inside a picture wallet that had been thrown away in the street. After scanning the negatives, we found they were family portraits taken by an amateur photographer some forty years earlier. All shared a common feature: they were underexposed, so it was really hard to recognize the people in the photographs; they could have been any family. Those moments, that formed part of the photographer's identity, could also be ours. So we decided to use our own photographs along with the anonymous ones, unifying them all using the same printing process and thus generating the identity and memories of someone who never existed.
The series “This is You” has been growing over time. Creating this fictitious family has helped us to go deeper into the concept of identity and as a result we have become interested in the relation between place and identity. This new exploration has taken the form of the series “This is You Here”.
Places can tell us a lot about who lives, works and travels there. Place and identity are bound to one another. Not only do places give us spatial information about the people portrayed but places also become a key narrative element and tell us about those who inhabit them. Place can be said to be a mixture of former experiences, memories and reinterpretations. Personal reactions to any place trigger memories that constitute identity which in turn transforms a geographical space into a place.
We hope that our photographs trigger subconscious associations in the viewer based on their memories. We even prefer that the viewer interprets the photograph in a way different from how we originally imagined. In this way, by depicting familiar places, we ask the viewer to see them through “new” eyes as if these places were being seen for the first time, when everything is suspended between past and future.
‘.... If we are something, we are our past, aren’t we? Our past is not what can be recorded in a biography or in the newspapers. Our past is our memory. That memory can be hidden or inaccurate—it doesn’t matter. It’s there, isn’t it? It can be a lie but that lie becomes part of our memory, part of us.’
- Jorge Luis Borges.
- Jorge Luis Borges.