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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Lise Sarfati

In her images of Sloane and her mother, Lise Sarfati looks at the relationship between mother and child through their shared love of dramatic dress - a kind of motherand child 'partnerlook' as the Germans so precisely put it. Here is a piece I did for the lovely Gomma Magazine (next edition in Autumn 2008 or thereabouts, possibly).

Four years ago, Lise Sarfati was travelling across America to photograph teenagers for her New Life series. One of Sarfati’s most successful New Life subjects was Sloane, a chameleon-like teenager from Berkeley, California. Inspired by her New Life series, Sarfati returned to the United States to focus on the relationship between Sloane and her mother.

One image from the series (titled Mother and Daughter ) shows Sloane outside a suburban house. She looks down, away from the camera, her heavily made-up face further disguised by the veil of hair that surrounds her. Sloane is the daughter, but what kind of daughter is she - her face is a mask that expresses no emotion and reveals nothing except a slightly eerie suburbanised beauty. The effect is compounded by other images - Sloane in big glasses in a frilly necked red dress, Sloane by a book shelf, her face a picture of disinterest and boredom, and Sloane in her bedroom wearing the kind of dress that Loretta Lux’s otherworldly children would die for. Sloane almost struggles under the weight of wigs, cosmetics and costumes she wears.

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images copyright - Lise Sarfati


Timothy Archibald said...

Sarfati's work has always kind of fascinated me cuz there seems to be some kind of intangible vibe to the images i can never put my finger on. A friend was trying to describe Sarfati's book " The New Life" to me and said " Yeah...the portraits are of these sullen kids in their parent's homes, and everyone looks like they have a secret of some type, like they were all molested or something. "
I didn't really know what she was refering to , but then I kind of sensed it as well...all the kids seemed burdened by something, haunted by a secret or something.
This doesn't refer to this new project, which I haven't seen yet, but do you know what I mean?

colin pantall said...

Happy New Year, Timothy. I know what you mean - that sullenness/anxiety is reflective of adolescent life in the English speaking world and is something Sarfati picks up on really well - possibly because she is depressed herself and also because she understands why these kids have their anxieties. She's not the only one picking up on that. The greatest example is Rineke Dijkstra's Hilton Head portrait - the girl in the orange bikini whose mother told her she looks fat just as Dijkstra snapped the picture. Anxiety writ large.

Maybe Sarfati gets the dark side of that age because she is a bit of a misery monger herself.

Timothy Archibald said...

yeah, but maybe. but there is some kind of dread of a sexual nature to her people in "the new life", maybe because they are adolescents, i just don't know, but it seems like some kind of sexual burden...to me at least...that they are all wrestling with. agree or disagree?

colin pantall said...

Agree - they are adolescent girls for the most part and there is so much expectation of a certain kind of sexual behaviour and appearance projected onto them and the world around them, a form of dread is almost certain to appear.

At the same time some of them are pretty comfortable with their bodies and themselves - perhaps not the way they are seen. The dress is perhaps a form of escapism from that, especially for Sloane, who uses it as a mask - she's her own little Cindy Sherman.

simon said...

You could have a look to her website www.lisesarfati.com and you will discover the entire series SHE with Sloane.

Anonymous said...

you will see the entire series She on her website www.lisesarfati.com with Sloane,Sacha,Christine and Gina.