Irene Mamiye


January 20 – February 18, 2010, Ground flr, 5th flr


Walter Benjamin remarks that photography uncovers how at the same time an image can store and release meanings that were neither intended by the photographer nor recognized by its original viewers. From Benjamin’s premise that the ability of the camera to “see” far exceeds that of the human eye, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery through photography.

My approach has evolved from the more conventional memorializing and recording of events to a visual articulation of personal apprehensions through an abstracting approach to the medium. Photography becomes an unfolding where the truth is not inherent and fixed in a single image but a continuum of increasing understanding, never complete. In my work the notion of light is metaphoric, a medium both revealing and transformative, and photography is unleashed from recognizable reality. Creation and distortion go hand in hand, hard edge and flow, control and abandon. The final images mask and reveal, in my effort to resolve the terms of an unlived life.


I was born on the unfriendly shores of a very foreign country following my family’s arduous ship journey from Cairo to Marseilles. My family was uprooted from the Middle East, a locale where they had been entrenched since the Spanish Inquisition. Growing up as a Jew from an Arab land in France, I was advised not to divulge my identity. Rich cultural and religious traditions had to be stifled behind a veil of shame. This complex emotional texture was compounded by a subsequent immigration to the U.S at the impressionable age of thirteen. Recently the long-suppressed self has begun to emerge from a cycle of concealment and degradation, and a profusion of images is the testimony. Is photography a cause of this emergence or an effect of it? Has it revealed the inadmissible evidence of my life or created the conditions for acknowledging that evidence? Perhaps both.

In its constructivist aspect, my work further challenges the notion of the medium as a subtractive genre. I create three-dimensional constructions capable of inexhaustible manipulations. The kinetic, performative process of acquiring and assembling the materials of my photographs and the gestural strokes employed in the actual shooting carry through to post-production when the images are further manipulated. The lens registers the refracted effects of the surrounding light on these objects. Intervention in post-production further abstracts selected images. An intensive program of digital editing follows the original capture. An image may be cut apart and reassembled, then distorted or even obliterated. And although the process is in some sense a physical one, the artist’s hand is not apparent in the final output.

The repetitive process of capturing and manipulating induces delirium and listlessness, which yield the crucial states of vulnerability and abandon necessary to expose the contents of an inner emotional state. The pixel-by-pixel serial environment of digital photography, whose activities are inherently repetitive, lends to the cathartic aspect of image making. The self-transcending image yielded in the final output is one I hope will animate the viewer’s imagination, spurring associations through self-reflection in a merging of subject, artist and spectator – photography as the vessel of revelation.

Irene Mamiye, 2009