Marie Mandy: Images I Had in my Head

  July –
August 1987

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy’s exhibition ‘Images I Had in my Head’ 1987

“Photographic weaving appeared to me as the most appropriate means to render visually the images i had in my head. In fact, my photographic method consists of imagining pictures which are not taken from reality, but rather from mental images or ideas.

For me, photography is a vision and not a representation.

Already when I was a kid, I used to take pictures so that I could compensate for the weakness of my memory, as well as to fight against the ephemeral. I was never interested in capturing and reproducing reality, or in taking pictures of people I did not know. Instead, for my pleasure, I wanted to garner the faces of friends, intense moments – in short, everything which had stirred up inner emotions. Things have not really changed since then, except that I have replaced the souvenir-type of pictures with imaginary recollections.

Today, a picture begins to have interest for me when he photographer creates the events himself.

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy's exhibition 'Images I Had in my Head' 1987

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy’s exhibition ‘Images I Had in my Head’ 1987

At the time when I started developing the ‘photographic weaving’ technique in order to give these imaginary images concrete form, I was also involved with the theoretical consideration of fiction in photography. I was more interested in transforming reality rather than reproducing it; it seemed to me that every photograph is ‘fiction’ in a certain way, since the mere intervention of optical equipment curtails the perception of the real.

Photographic fiction is precisely a process of divergence: it ‘disturbs’ the real, it takes it over, in the sense that it moves over the material reality and makes its own reality.

MarieMandy

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy’s exhibition ‘Images I Had in my Head’ 1987

I wanted very much to push this notion of fiction to its ultimate limits. In any case, photographers who would take to the streets to capture the real world did not move me. On the other hand, I was passionately involved in everything which had to do with staging the real, in terms of having vision burst out, of turning the medium topsy-turvy, or even of representing movement; and of using photography to tell stories. I admired those people whom I called “the repeaters of the imaginary”: Duane Michals and hid narrative sequences, David Hockney and his puzzle pictures, Man Ray and his experiments.

Photographic weaving allowed me to ‘diverge’ from the real and to develop this option of ‘fiction in photography’. By interweaving images taken from reality, I was able to obtain an image which could not be retraced directly to its origins. I could show a picture of an androgynous person or mix the opposites. The photographic paper would give the result a weighty dimension of reality.

I also like the idea of going after the ‘weaknesses’ of photography, it is flat, stationary and immediate; but weaving can give it relief of a certain medium. It bears the mark of time. By working on the medium itself, I was able to add a third dimension to a photograph: the photographic sheet is slashed methodically, then put back together again, acquiring a certain depth as a result.

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy's exhibition 'Images I Had in my Head' 1987

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy’s exhibition ‘Images I Had in my Head’ 1987

On the other hand, my passion for the cinema has always urged me to try and treat a photograph like a film: to create an illusion of motion, or a certain ‘blur’ as a special effect to enliven the subject being treated with an interior orbit.

Finally, weaving was a means of giving photography a production time – an element present in all the other arts: here, there is no longer the immediacy, nor the multiplicity of photography. Each weaving requires a production process of of several hours, and it becomes unique because its transformation is partially a tangent of chance.

For me, photographic weaving is a search, a journey. I would like to arrive at the creation of frescoes and tapestries in which I could tell long stories with all sorts of feelings. It is therefore a mental construction first and foremost. I have pictures in my head and a precise idea of what I want to express. I think about it for a long time, then I weave all of it mentally to see if it works. When I begin to give it form, it goes very fast, since it is merely a case of endowing a mental image with a concrete physical shape.

For example, how can the weakness of the memory of emotions be expressed physically so that it can be seen?

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy's exhibition 'Images I Had in my Head' 1987

Image from catalogue of Marie Mandy’s exhibition ‘Images I Had in my Head’ 1987

Later, I wanted to work on color, to have forms waver, and more specifically to choose myself the hues that the reality I wanted to transform would take. Starting with black and white negatives which I would print on color paper in different shades, I was able to color reality in a whimsical and unexpected way. For me, a photograph had ceased to be merely a reproduction. It was becoming transformation  – a mental and imaginary reinterpretation. I would use the real to create fiction and to tell my stories; my photographs represented images which had little to do with reality. I had discovered a new game, one that I liked very much indeed.”

– Marie Mandy, from the catalogue of ‘Images I Had in my Head’, 1987