The Movingly Minute Scale Of a Restricted Life
When studying the genre of family photography, scholar Marianne Hirsch stressed on a need to decipher its coded nature in order to unveil relations to dominant family ideologies and narratives.
The family photo is hence a cryptic vault of power, pain, and secrets as much as it is an instrument for displaying cohesion and togetherness.
Drawing upon her personal experiences with the scripts and struggles of familial life, The Movingly Minute Scale Of a Restricted Life by Lavender Chang contemplates on the dualism of how indelible hurt every so often resides under the same roof as unconditional love.
Using a pinhole camera positioned on the windows of various family homes, she captures portraits of bean plants she grew and harvested, along with the scenery beyond, through the technique of solargraphy. Left in the sun over days, the camera obscura resembles an incubator in which family relations, symbolized by the bean plants, are literally and figuratively developing in. Yet, it is a black box of the unknown, parallel to how families are often impenetrable to an outsider’s perception and understanding, despite the universality in issues they face.
The use of long and multiple photographic exposures play upon the concept of the optical unconscious, rendering visible what is otherwise invisible to the human eye, surfacing unconscious and latent thoughts to conscious levels. Suffocation or liberation? Security or captivity? Such notions remain grey.
These one-of-kind solargraphs eventually fades with prolonged exposure, an ephemerality that is not unlike the transience of life.
Surreal and hauntingly beautiful, these images are more than botanical studies. Masking a suppressed violence, they are in fact records of the plants’ slow but certain expiration. Loose splotches of residue expelled on the prints hint of traces of the struggle, a stark contrast with the rhythmic and purposeful trails imprinted by the sun’s pathway through the sky. In a similar vein, the photographic renderings of families are often responses to an idealized image. Yet there is often a gap between lived reality and a perceived ideal.
Varying in species and origins, the bean plants are a recurring subject matter in Chang’s works as a representation of life and dormant time. This series is hence an extension of her previous explorations on adaptation and survival, into more private and intimate realms.