It’s the work of Lara Mennes, one of a pair of Flemish photographers who make up the first show in the new series Young Belgian Photography at Antwerp’s Photography Museum (FoMu). Mennes’ photos are part of project called Capturing the Sensible: Memories in Architecture and present us with details of abandoned buildings.
The images Mennes captures seem trivial, even banal. The photographer shows what remains, what was not deemed worth keeping or saving. “I looked for those elements that will be thrown away or cleared out when the building is refurbished,” she says.
The forgotten objects and naked architecture can be seen as memories, not from a glorious past, but from everyday life. The photos breathe the kind of melancholy sadness that always lingers in derelict and desolate places, but therein lies the beauty. In Mennes’ still lifes, prosaic ruins are given a voice, a last chance to tell their stories.
Sarah Carlier is also a story-teller. In Four years, three deaths, sweaty armpits and a foetus, she combines documentary and photography to chronicle life and death in a Romanian family.
Within a period of four years, Florica lost her husband and both parents. While she is still stricken with grief, her daughter finds love, becomes a mother and gets married. Carlier follows Florica (pictured) and her family during this rapid succession of life-altering turns in a series of video fragments and photos.
The distinction between real and staged events is vague and unimportant to Carlier. What matters are questions about how to deal with changes we cannot control. A documentary fragment takes us to the wedding day of Florica’s daughter. The entire party gathers for a chaotic portrait, but it becomes painfully clear that some family members are missing.
Carlier treats her subjects respectfully, and in an accompanying book she explains how she gradually built a strong bond with the family. Like the crumpled red Dacia in which Florica’s husband died, death constantly looms in Carlier’s work. But so does life.
This duality connects the artist to her colleague Mennes: Both photographers are fascinated with the visualisation of the past in the present.
Not so coincidentally, the past is also the theme of Imaging History, the larger exhibition upstairs in FoMu. This first instalment of Young Belgian Photography happens to be the perfect addition, as well as an interesting show in its own right.
Photo Museum, Waalsekaai 47, Antwerp