Apókryphos means secret or unknown in Ancient Greek. That is precisely what this body of work by Cherine Fahd trades in; the hidden and the exhumed. The photographs in this series come from Fahd’s own family archive. They were taken in 1975 by a now unknown photographer. While the photographer has long been forgotten, the event they transcribed is singed into the Fahd family’s collective memory; the funeral and burial of the artist’s grandfather.
Kept private and unseen for years in an envelope, these photographs depict a distinctly personal loss and underscore the intimacy of grief. By taking the images out of their envelope, enlarging and reprinting them, Fahd is not only memorialising this loss, she is staging an act of bearing witness. We have been cast into this scene as voyeurs. The private becomes publically visible as we eavesdrop on pain that doesn’t belong to us. Even so, we still feel it. The strained faces, the collapsed bodies – these images carry emotive connotations that transcend their own specificity.
Returning to this event and the photographs years later, Fahd is far from passive. She has intervened in the archive through the annotations that pockmark the prints. Two sets of footnotes appear with each image. One describes, with an even hand, the objects and figures featured while the other is oblique. Runnaway thoughts, self-reflective references, comic asides, poetic musings; these secondary annoations don’t explain the photographs, they complicate them. They make us aware of the dense layer of each image and its history history – aware of what we, as viewers, bring to the act of looking and spotlight the details can slip into the frame unannounced.
We often treat family photographs like time capsules; they reaquaint us with our own memories. But these images can also be a point of departure. They can be re-narrativised. The photographs in Apókryphos are at once a micro-history of the Lebanese Australian community in the 1970s and an account of loss as both a lived and ongoing experience.
9 archival pigment prints
125.0 x 100.0 cm each
Photography Collection Benefactors Fund 2020
Not on display
© Cherine Fahd