The work in Album is built on the relationship between my grandmother and I, on our bond through photographs. The home and the body are the coordinates that provide it with a structure, and photography is the means that enables us to fix our gaze and allows others to come into it. Through photographs and texts, it approaches topics such as memory, personal and cultural inheritance and photography as a way to explore identity. The Spanish editorial house Mestizo published Album in a book in 2000; it was then presented in an exhibition that brought together photographs, texts, videos and objects.
My mother brought me to Mexico when I was eight years old. I was born in Spain and spent part of my childhood in Vienna, Austria. I worked on Album for fourteen years. I began the project due to the deep attraction I felt for the pictures that my grandmother took of my early years in Vienna. I could not distinguish my memories from the images and I felt that in them a fundamental mystery was hidden from me. Based on this, I made a series on some of photos from my childhood, which later expanded as I became more involved in thinking about photography and its relationship with memory and identity. Little by little Album became a more profound exploration, addressing central themes in family relationships, the history of my ancestors, the construction of the body within the search for an identity.
The work was carried out in several stages. The sale of my grandmother’s house and her gradual loss of memory led me to finally restructure the story in a book. To develop the narrative, I submerged myself in the albums, in the pictures of my grandmother, of my ancestors and of me, in my diaries, in hers, and I discovered once more that both of us had a deep need to capture time in words, photographs, recordings, film and videos. These objects enable us to see the cycle of our lives. My grandmother took pictures of me as a child, just as I took pictures of her during her last years; likewise, she photographed her mother before she died. My grandmother’s need to take self-portraits in front of the mirror, year after year, is the same need that led me to photograph myself.
My grandmother’s love of photography and the way she used it allowed me also to state some other qualities of interest to me in this medium. On the one hand, it gave me access to the images she took throughout her life, as well as to those of other generations and key periods in the history of humanity such as World War I and World War II. On the other, it showed me the way in which photography intertwines our desires with the representation of the media in our contemporary world. My grandfather often appeared in the media and when he left my grandmother, she continued to take pictures of him on television. When I was a little girl she would even ask me to pose next to the television set. This dramatic faith in photography as a repairer of absences*, shows how private space is mixed with public space and how our yearnings seem to get lost in the confusion of representation in the media.
Now I know that my grandmother was witness of a time that marked my life profoundly; her photographs are signs of affection and at the same time, they are traces of moments that I shall never cease to decipher. It was my relationship with her, the silent link through the camera, which has made me perceive photography as an act of attention and a form of relating vitally with the world.
At the end of the work process on the book I “discovered” my diet journals and decided to include these images that attest to my need to find an identity through the construction and exploration of my body. The presentation of this material is a slight shift in my place as an author, since I am naming myself the object of my own discourse. These photographs continue to disturb me. They seem to pose questions that open up several topics that call for further reflection. This is why this has become an independent project derived from Album.
Note: Album is a book based on a narration of texts and images; its structure makes the work coherent, the reason why we suggest that you follow the page sequence. The Web page presented here is not identical to the book.