MEMORIES AND MIRRORS         NARRATIVE PHOTOWORKS 1982--2004

        Artist's Statement by Ellen Eisenman



I have been a documentary photographer since 1967 and a settlement house worker since 1969, so my life's work has followed dual paths, apparently different, but sharing a common purpose and realm of commitment, and in a way, a practice. Both areas of work are concerned with the human condition and aim to promote a more just society. Both seek to foster dialogue and need the participation of all members of the community.

From the beginning, I've photographed life around me - faces, picket lines, tools, workplaces, community meetings. Gradually, it occurred to me that I was collecting an archive of images that mirrored my world, and that I could use those images to reflect on social issues. In the early 1980s, I began to combine several images to create large-scale works dealing with themes that are important to me. I made the first large stitched piece, "remembering Rahsaanů" in 1982.

Until the late 1990's, I used archivally processed black-and-white photographs. I am currently working with archival digital prints, and have begun to use color as well as black-and-white images. Stitched photographs are fixed in place with nails, pins, and silver wire along with glass or metal beads, seeds, stone, and shells. The tactile process of sifting through photos that capture traces of memory, sewing together fragments, handling the beads, and combining images provides a framework for reflecting on the connections between my personal and social experiences. There is much here of workers and work, in particular the work of creating - buildings, art, relationships, community.

The pieces in this exhibit were made during the period from 1982 to 2004, represent all the themes I have worked on during these years. My own photographs from 1967 until the present are here, as well as a few family photos spanning generations beginning in the 1870s. Some images appear in more than one work: these images seem to be particularly resonant and to activate dialogue.

Each work in this exhibition is a vessel of memory and a meditation on how our experiences connect. The narratives reveal my particular journey, and there is room, I hope, for viewers to add their own reflections.

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