Argentinean Irina Werning probably didn’t imagine she would end up with a camera when she studied Economics at Universidad de San Andres in Buenos Aires. She later received a masters in history and very much later, received a masters in photographic journalism at this university (University of Westminster) in 2006.
Her work reflects upon history like a visual poem, perhaps even a personal diary of the photographer reflecting upon her own existence and her own history.
I particularly loved her series “Back to the Future”. In this work, she uses old photographs and traces their subjects and has them pose in the same posture and similar close. Werning says on her website this work made her realize she is “a bit obsessive.
“I love old photos. I admit being a nosey photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for them. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me, it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to re-enact them today… A few months ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.”
I thought this series by Werning is an interesting example of artists using a historical archive, in this case old photographs normally kept in family albums, as a basis for their creation. In this case it is a study of time, memories and physical transformations through age. I think her work resonates with Desai’s writing on autobiography/memoirs.
“Back to the Future” is not autobiographical for Werning herself (she is relating a historical narrative) but it certianly is for her subjects, who are choosing to actively participate in reliving a moment — for them it is a personal memoir. Therefore the work is a cross-section of what Desai describes in his chapter on autobiography/memory. In some cases the moments re-enacted by the participants are from their childhood and their engagement in the process is about reliving/trigerring memories from the past and understanding the concept of time and the transformation it lends to one’s self.