Shifting and conflicting states

[Winter 2000-2001]

by Jacques Doyon

Identity is a precarious notion, constantly being redefined, at the intersection of many dimensions of belonging and identification. It is a self-definition, by and through the view of others. Identity is always a question of positionings and negotiations. The part of it that may seem to be inherent or original is, in fact, always the subject of interpretations and contradictory points of view. In this issue, we present three examples of photographic works dealing with identity issues. Although each is very different from the other, they have in common that they are at the crossroads of individuality and sociability and take account of the multiple components that shape identity and evoke its fluctuating and contractual nature.

Ève K. Tremblay’s L’Éducation sentimentale explores the narrative dimension of identity, with its role playing and its questioning of cultural models and referents. The cloistered world of a private women’s school serves as the context for tightly composed mises en scène that are nevertheless redolent of the emotions of growing up and the first stirrings of seductiveness. Intermingled in these images are references to Flaubert and to the fragility of sentiments and moral questions of an Éric Rohmer, and certain pictorial and religious representations of the Virgin. They are touching evocations of moments when questions of identity are posed in all their urgency and amplitude.

Following his series of portraits of aristocratic Italian families, Patrick Faigenbaum became interested in more ordinary people photographed in the public square – in the context of their locality, their town or city. He found them in a Sardinian village, in Prague, Barcelona, and Paris, and, here, in Bremen. This series of photographs draws on the traditions of Sander, Atget, and Cartier-Bresson. People are perceived as generic, but also as individuals. The localities, in their specificity and standardization, are offered up both as scene and as parameter of interactions with others. The flow of encounters and interactions, or that of solitudes, defines sociability and the concrete fabric of what makes up different degrees of belonging or not belonging. There is therefore no definition, but simply an accumulation of fragments, which, through their quality of light and composition, and through the contrast and the extra distancing of the mixture of black-and-white and colour photographs, encourages us to consider a bit more attentively each of the multiple realities that define human sociability. They are temporary stops in a moving portrait.

Longing and Not Belonging, by Rosalie Favell, interchanges memories, objects of desire, models, and sites of identification in triptychs that lay out fragments of identity in a fragile balance. As a woman, a Métis (Native and European ancestry), urban in culture, and lesbian, Favell features an identity at the confluence of a number of sources, caught between the desire to belong and the near impossibility of doing so. Plants and flowers, places, family portraits and self-portraits, stereotyped images of the Indian and the feminine icons of television and movies convey this multiplicity of cultures and identifications, which are often difficult to reconcile among themselves.

And to wrap up, a little news. The magazine’s editorial committee is pleased to welcome André Clément, artist and professor at UQAM, and Martha Langford, researcher and independent curator, ex-director and founder of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. And, as you will have noticed, the magazine is continuing its gradual metamorphosis. Keep watching!