Archive Mist explores personal and collective memory and trauma through photographs as reflected in the photographic collection of the American Red Cross. For its production I employed images from the unprocessed archive of the American Red Cross that I discovered over my Fellowship at the Library of Congress, in 2015.
My strongest connection to this archive is my grandfather, Sarkis. At the age of five he got separated from his family living thereafter at a Red Cross orphanage in Greece. Exploring and documenting the archive raised my expectations to find hints for my grandfather’s figure. I created a mythological representation around my grandfather’s experiences as a young boy at the orphanage. I relied on clues that matched my given knowledge about his life. The boys playing football under the eye of the officer, small children, girls and boys being taught basket weaving or blacksmithing on the pictures of the ARC seemed familiar. According to family’s narrations Sarkis liked football and was skilful in painting and crafting, skills that had their roots in his youth at the orphanage. I came to know such facts through the words of family members. The family recollections about his life can be interpreted as the field for postmemory performance, what Marianne Hirsch (1997) describes as cross-generational memory. The postmemory, formulated over years, creates a sense of familiarity for anything associated to him which allowed for a materialisation of the memory of my grandfather in the images of the ARC. Based on press retouch techniques and relying on memories of my grandfather’s experiences at the Red Cross orphanage, I edited, reformed, and manipulated the archival pictures to create ‘Archive Mist’. Through my interventions of black and white colour on the surface on the prints I aimed to engage the martial in a cross-generational dialogue that brings to light stories that otherwise would remain unknown.
Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari © 2017