Photo Souvenirs is a body of work that traces three phases of life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Comprising 45 images in all, each phase consists of 15 images which are presented both in a photo album format (7.8 x 11.8 inches) hand bound in a clamshell case, and as larger individually framed prints (20.8 x 31.5 inches). In both formats, the images have been hand embroidered with silk thread and glass beads. They are three dimensional pieces of art.
More of Carolle Benitah’s work can be seen at www.carollebenitah.com.
“Like an archeologist, I excavate the pictures in which I appear from the family albums and the shoeboxes full of photographs. From these fragments of my past, I select images that evoke intense memories and feelings of loss. For me, these photographs seem like confessions. I order them, classify them, scan them, and then I re-print them. In this way, I transpose past realities into new forms sometimes selecting details for further study, other times eliminating other aspects. My work of interpretation begins with these steps.
From my present vantage point some forty years later, I begin to re-work and re-tell myself, my life, and my past. With each image, I start to narrate my version of the story. The past of a human being, unlike the remains of a medieval castle, is neither permanent nor finished but always reconstructed in the present time. Through the traditional feminine art of embroidery, I transform the image with decoration to re-interpret my own history and to expose its failings.
This precise and slow process of embroidery serves as a metaphor for the work of making oneself and for the passage of time. With each stitch I make a hole with a needle. Each puncture releases a demon. It’s like a personal exorcism. As I reinterpret each photograph, I am raising a veil on the past. My needlework becomes a narrative revelation brought about through the archeology of emotion. For example, in one picture, my personal story is metaphorically realized through the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood, the story of a little girl swallowed by a wolf. Through the silk threads and glass beads, we know we have entered a transgressive story, marked with perilous paths that should not to be trespassed. In another picture, I embroidered cockroaches (symbols of my childhood fears) which invade the space, yet they have angels’ wings representing the surprising protectors who were there to save the girl I was.
I use the red thread to symbolize the path of my existence. With red silk, I trace the maze of my misplaced history. Red is the color of sexuality and violent emotion; it is also the color of life blood, and of bad blood. The beads I use are chosen for their sheen and their fragility, stressing the precariousness of decorative transformations.
The family album on which I sew, embroider, glue, and cut catalyzes the memories and the imagination; I play with the red thread of emotions and the fragility of glass beads, sometimes allowing the archaic ruins of my history to rise up again. Photographic memories and present day interpretation, the reality and the dream, these are the keys that unlock my pictorial language. The needle and the thread reinterpret the vagaries of memory and recreate the lines of my present. ”
– Carolle Benitah