The New Life La Vie Nouvelle.
Photographs by Lise Sarfati, text by Olga Medvedkova.
Twin Palms Publishers,
120 pp., 50 four-color plates., 13x11".
Though undeniably photodocumentary in nature, Sarfati’s work is defined through an opposition to the editorial urge to fix narratives to her subjects. Her images create a loose, layered and intensely rich visual project that allows us, the viewers, to consider the complexities of any place or time, triggering emotions and thoughts that move well beyond the ostensible subjects of her photographs. Sarfati’s importance in today’s debates about the role and visual languages of socially engaged photography also rests in her resistance to fully objectify the subjects that compel her to make imagery. . . .
Her choice to record young people in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon and California, on the cusp of adult responsibility, could be construed as the latest addition to contemporary photography’s familiar interest with this highly photogenic stage of human life. . . .
The American Series represents one of those rare experiences for photographers that is impossible to simulate or confidently repeat, where the photographs almost – just – happened. Sarfati did not overly choreograph her young subjects and, instead, was carried by her own adage that by creating, she was exploring and understanding them. While her presence acted upon these young people, she also created the psychological space for them, in turn, to act upon her and to act up – or down – for the camera.
This perhaps accounts for Sarfati’s success in re-presenting American young people as, simply, individually and universally the carriers of states of minds. Her acute compositional sense combined with an instinctive feel for colour, texture and contrast creates a physical and psychological space which is both engaging and, ultimately, elusive.
- Clare Grafik, Photographers Gallery, London
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