Analogue Photographic Collages - family archive

I. This series of surrealist collages aims to explore the uneasiness of photography, focusing on images extracted from their context. The collages are the first steps to a larger reflection on architecture, landscapes and people under the critical lens of modernity/coloniality, challenging permanence with temporariness, delinking the signifier from the signified.


The ethnographer takes a photograph of the shaman. The shaman reaches his arm out to take it, but the ethnographer pulls back holding onto the image. “What are you doing?”, asks the shaman. “I have to keep it”, replies the ethnographer. “But it’s me." “It’s not you. It’s an image of you.”, replies the ethnographer. “Like a chullanchaqui?" “A what?”, asks the ethnographer. “A chullanchaqui. We all have one. He looks just like you, but he’s empty, hollow”, explains the shaman. “This is a memory. A moment that passed.“ “A chullanchaqui has no memories. It only drifts around in the world, empty, like a ghost, lost in time without time. Are you going to show my chullanchaqui to your people?”, asks the shaman. “If you allow me.”

(from 'Embrace of the serpent')


II. The analogue photographs used are a collection of my own and my family's archive spanning from the 80ies to the present. Through this intergenerational mixing I wish to detach time from the scenarios portrayed, and similarly, by creating a mixture various landscapes, architectures and people, detach space from reality. The surrealist collages are thus a separation of signifier and signified, hoping to disassociate and freeing the signified from the assumptions and stories created once the images, sometimes stolen instants, are brought out of context, in this case taken from Morocco into Europe.

What stories are fantasized, told, assumed by looking at a photograph? Does our imagination run wild on prejudice, suppositions and orientalist imaginings? How violating is it to steel someone's image and expose it to the gaze of others, without being able to hear the stories it triggers, nor being able to tell their story. How damaging is it to completely loose control of one's own image?

My wish through these collages is to free the image of a person, landscape or architecture from the stolen reality, through the creation of surrealist sceneries which have never existed.


III. In this third collage I bring into one frame modern and traditional architecture, hopefully triggering reflections around temporariness in opposition to permanence of architectures, challenging the type of modern spaces we crave in relation to time, them being immobile, fluctuating, regenerating or circular.

Or just blowing away in the wind.



© Steffie de Gaetano 2022