Lori Grinker

[Woman with knife. Village of Grinkiskis, Kaunas district, Lithuania 2002]

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Distant Relations, 2002

Color negative film shot with a medium format Mamiya 7II rangefinder camera, Dimensions Variable

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This work explores how my personal and cultural identity derives from the history and migration of my extended family. Distant Relations portrays the dispersal of a single family, originally from Klaipeda County, western Lithuania, throughout the world. With medium format color film, I am telling this story of diaspora with landscapes, environmental portraits, and still-life details. Photographs specific to each place portray my search to understand and represent both my identity and the journey taken by my family during the past 120 years. This body of work is not a narrative photo essay that depicts the everyday social life of the diaspora, but is rather an oblique perspective on the geographic and symbolic landscape the Grinker families have occupied.War, oppression, and the search for better opportunities and more freedoms, are among the many reasons families disperse every day. Despite the fact that new technologies and social media facilitate human connections, new surroundings help to change our identities, and extended families can remain disconnected. Dear Grinkers is about how, more than a century later, this family has reconnected and forged links between present and past. The images of specific places, interiors, details—the nuances of facts—allow the viewer to imagine and extrapolate, to see beyond what is depicted and discover a range of emotions and intuitive responses to the material.My path has been determined by my curiosity. These photographs are places I am looking in on, representing what could have been. Taken together, the images offer an impressionistic map of a family’s migration and illustrate the displacement that is intrinsic to diaspora.

–Lori Grinker- - -

Text below is fby George Slade rom Loupe Magazine:

This project derives from a letter written in 1960 by one of the photographer’s ancestors, who sought to collect impressions from his relatives about their collective history. That Grinker’s efforts are echoed in Lori Grinker’s current project about her family. In this work she seeks to fashion a visual narrative of her family’s dispersion, to follow the leaves and twigs of the family tree back along its branches, limbs, and trunk until she reconstructs the trunk. Instead of moving forward through time, her narrative builds backwards in an attempt to reverse the chronological flow of the Grinker river. Her photographs, certainly guided in part by déjà vu, imagine presence in places where the family has been. They construct moments in which absence is a salient property and memory seems to be in the process of taking hold. Even when she photographs contemporary activity, as in the wedding of a cousin to an Indian woman, the anachronism inherent in cultural displacement is apparent.

George Slade, Loupe magazine (Photographic Resource Center, Boston University)

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