Lise Sarfati: She

Images from She, an exhibition by the California-based French photographer that features a series of mysterious photographs of two sets of sisters.

Gina #24 Oakland, CA 2007

‘Set in a rundown area of Oakland, California, She features two middle-aged women, Christine and Gina, in its small cast. They are sisters, as are the younger Sloane and Sasha, Christine’s daughters. In the exhibition’s press release, Sarfati writes “I like doubles, like mothers and daughters, or sisters or reflections. This represents my research into women’s identities … I am interested in fixing that instability”‘

Sloane #66 Oakland, CA 2009

‘Of the four subjects’, says O’Hagan, ‘Sloane is the most traditionally photogenic, and the one whose portraits most resemble film stills. One could easily imagine her haunting a David Lynch movie in the manner of Patricia Arquette in Lost Highway’

Gina #08 Oakland, CA 2009

‘All four women live tough lives in a marginalised area of Oakland where poverty and struggle is the norm, but, again, this is suggested rather than spelt out’

Sasha #20 Emeryville, CA 2007

‘Sacha, appears only twice, and seems the most ill at ease with Sarfati’s camera and her opaque motives. Sarfati has said that all the women, in their different ways, were difficult to photograph because they remained constantly suspicious of the camera’s gaze, as well they might’

Gina #12 Oakland, CA 2009

‘Gina, like Sloane, can look like a different person from one portrait to the next, and her sexual identity, too, seems fluid’

Sloane #07 Oakland, CA 2007

‘The photographs are given an extra layer of unrealness by Sarfati’s use of Kodachrome slide film, which is more synonymous with family snapshots from the 1960s and 1970s. There are echoes of William Eggleston’s early colour images in some of her landscapes, but her work is all her own in its evocation of a certain kind of suspended, and insular, reality’

Christine #10 Hollywood, CA 2006

‘The power of the photographs lies partly in their elusiveness, the ways in which they evade easy elucidation’

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