I have not torn any of my photographs until now. I have refused to print photographs that I did not like or was ashamed of; if they were printed, I hid them in places nobody could find. Who knows, maybe this stems from my naive belief in the sanctity of printed photographs. This might explain my horror when I first saw Lara’s work, ‘A Series of Reactions.’
‘A Series of Reactions’ is based on eight seemingly unrelated found photographs that Lara came upon on the same day. Almost all the photographs have attempted to document different people; some at dinner receptions, some walking in nature. The photograph that ‘disrupts’ the series focuses on a huge building; the structure is reflected on the lake by its side. The common element that makes a series out of the images has to do with form: it is based not on dates or themes, but on the fact that a part of each photograph has been carefully torn or cut out.
As someone who does not modify printed photographs in the least, I can only hypothesize about people who tear photographs. I think that someone with scissors probably may have wanted to remove a piece of information visible on the photograph. Maybe the aim was to erase an unwanted person from memory. Or it was to relieve the photograph of ‘unnecessary’ details, to – supposedly – perfect it. All the possibilities that come to my mind point to a break, a discontinuity in memory. Lara places the found images on white paper in a naked manner and attaches a drawing she has created especially for each photograph. It would be incorrect to say that this abstract commentary attempts to overcome the loss of memory achieved by a simple tear. These drawings do not strive to decipher and to fill a deficiency. On the contrary, they strive to improve or possibly personalize the ‘impaired’ images.
Lara’s flirtation with found photographs is not peculiar to ‘A Series of Reactions.’ The artist finds newspapers, magazines, photographs from second-hand stores and modifies them in many ways: She collages photographs by placing them on top of each other, ‘completes’ images with her own drawings or with photographs or places text in cut-out parts. These images, with which I came into contact while living among the notebooks and folders in Lara’s studio, have not been put into frames to make them ‘unique.’ The works pinned on black panes give the feel that they can be removed and changed at any moment; when series of photographs are laid out side by side, they create stories that are as vulnerable to modification as they are fragile.
It could be argued that the format of exhibiting on black panes alludes to the uncompleted ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’ project of visual historian Aby Warburg. Five years before his death in 1929, Warburg began copying images from books, newspapers and daily life and grouping them by familial kinships and fresh familiarities according to his personal interpretation. This work stood out with the way he exhibited these thematic clusters. Lara does not aim to jolt the linearity of art history or break its own logic in a Warburgesque manner; her relationship with the images is much more personal. But she has a fixation similar to that of the German researcher: Avoiding to create ‘new’ images, she constantly collects and matches found images and her interest in creating new stories by juxtaposing them is exactly how they are related.
At first glance, the works in ‘1+1=3’ which emerge from found photographs or texts might point to a detached search. At the end of the day, lack of a caption or an owner makes it easier to look at the private moments in the photographs, from a safe distance. However, in this day and age when photographs are not printed as souvenirs or collected as objects, in order to involve these abandoned and unwanted photographs in new stories, it is necessary both to personalize them and to associate them with other images. By trying to appropriate these images with no ownership, Lara continues to elaborate on this need and to scrutinize her own practice.