Mother, I do not know you. Mother, I never knew you.
Daughter – without knowing, you knew me.
- Tillie Olsen
At age 26, I moved to Austin, Texas, to start an MA in photojournalism. My mother had just died from cancer three weeks earlier. This photo project is directly derived from my thesis work at the University of Texas, in which I tried to capture my mother’s life story, her personality and feelings through letters, photographs and testimonies from family and friends.
I thought writing my thesis would put an end to the grieving and it did in a way. But my obsession of handling the material I had gathered never left me. I always come back to it, look at it. Sometimes it feels the same, sometimes it feels different. It is ever changing. My perspective evolves as years pass.
Identité(s) (I am originally from France) deals with the issues of identity (or identities), perception, truth and femininity. This project is a gathering of visual evidence and transcribed testimonies attempting to reconstruct the portrait of my mother. The title Identité(s) refers to the many identities and contradictions that characterize each of us as a person and to the many roles we each play throughout the day from the time we get up until the moment we fall asleep.
Here, I offer the viewer some raw material. None of the testimonies associated with each photograph are identified on purpose. The viewer can try to figure them out and identify who the author might be if he/she wishes to do so. He/she might succeed or not. As in real life, we are not always able to make full sense of everything we see, read and hear. I chose the specific process of lith printing to add a nostalgic feeling to the images that are reminiscent of the past. The text that accompanies each image is printed on aged paper that seems to have been torn out of a journal and is mounted on the print using a simple collage technique.
The story of my mother’s life is being told as I first found it: bits and pieces, needing to be assembled and put in order to recreate her life story, or to create your own impression of it. Because, in the end, impressions are all that remains… the truth is elusive.
[Click on each individual image to access the testimonies]