Paul Greenfield MFA, ARPS

Christian Boltanski (1944)

The power of photography to recall the past has inspired many contemporary artists to use photographs to revisit the experience of historical events. In so doing, artists reconsider the photograph itself as an object imbued with history. They became aware that using the medium of photography would lend the elements of specificity and truth to their work.

Since the late 1960s, Christian Boltanski (b. 1944, Paris) has worked with photographs collected from ordinary and often ephemeral sources, endowing the commonplace with significance. Rather than taking original photographs to use in his installations, he often finds and rephotographs everyday documents—passport photographs, school portraits, newspaper pictures, and family albums—to memorialize everyday people. Boltanski seeks to create an art that is indistinguishable from life and has said, “The fascinating moment for me is when the spectator hasn’t registered the art connection, and the longer I can delay this association the better.”3 By appropriating mementos of other people’s lives and placing them in an art context, Boltanski explores the power of photography to transcend individual identity and to function instead as a witness to collective rituals and shared cultural memories.
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