Cabinet Cards (Storydress II)
albumen prints from wet-plate collodion negatives
4.25 x 6.5 inches, series of 5 mounted on cabinet cards
6.5 x 8.5 inches, series of 10 framed
Storydress II is a series of photographs of a life-size paper mache and plaster sculpture. The dress is made of paper mache stories that I recorded of my great-grandmother’s autobiographical reminiscences. Each photograph contains legible words. The sculpture was photographed with the wet-plate collodion negative process, printed on handmade gold-toned Albumen paper, and burnished onto antique Cabinet Card mounts. For exhibition the cabinet card photographs are displayed using an antique wooden Graphoscope (magnifying device) and shelf.
Finding unknown relatives in my family photograph collection,and noticing old photographs of anonymous people in antiquestores, I was taken by how many people were forgotten regardless of photography’s intention to “Secure the shadow, ‘ere the substance fades away.” The older the picture, the more forlorn the subject appeared to me. Holding their image, I was impressed with their absence. Storydress II tries to show this underlying subject of photographic portraiture. The 19th century cabinet card is turned inside out, revealing the presence of absence in a medium characterized by rigid detail and anonymity. The figure of reminiscence, cast in plaster, parallels the poetic immobility of the head clamp, used in early photography to prevent movement during long exposures, aptly defined by Barthes as “the corset of my imaginary existence”. The life size cast figure wears a paper mache dress made of family stories: recorded,torn up, and glued back together again. The tedious processes involved in making both the subject and photograph are offerings to time’s taking.
All images and text on this website are © Christine Elfman, and may not be used without permission.