13.05.2023 – 26.08.2023
The image regained
When a city is destroyed, (found) portrait photos prove to be of great importance.
The world has been deeply shocked by the recent earthquake in the border region of Turkey and Syria, the human suffering, the destruction, the powerlessness. Photographs of missing people immediately began to circulate: has anyone seen them? On 26 December 2003, the city of Bam in southern Iran was completely destroyed in a similar violent earthquake, which left tens of thousands of people dead. How important photographs have been – and still are – for Bam is the theme of this exhibition.
Visual artist Rudi Struik made mixed media installations based on photos found by the Iranian photographer and photo historian Parisa Damandan.
In search of the lost image
“Immediately after the earthquake in Bam, the Iranian photographer and photo historian Parisa Damandan wondered what she could do and travelled to the ruined city, not as a photographer but to offer assistance. While she was helping to clear debris, an old woman approached her to ask if she could help her search for rolls of negatives. She told Parisa that her two sons had perished under the rubble, one of whom had got married the day before the earthquake. She hoped to find photographs of the wedding shoot at the location where the photographic shop had stood; her son had delivered the rolls there. These photographs were the only thing she had left.”
Damandan went in search of the lost image to bring comfort, to help give grief a place.
The quest for the negatives culminated in a huge archive. During a visit to the Netherlands in 2007, Damandan met Rudi Struik and donated part of her archive to him.
“She is delighted that her work resonates in the exhibition ‘The image regained’: the belief that photographs connect you to family and loved ones, and offer the opportunity to carry the image with you. Because, how do you reconcile with such loss? How important, then, is the closeness of the photographs, their tangibility, being able to touch them, kiss them? The power of the image is its ability to bring people you have lost back to the physical world.” (Kitty Zijlmans)
In 2013 Parisa Damandan published a book about this project: Out of the Ruins. Bam Photography Rescue Project – Earthquake December 2003.
Films by Reza Torabi and Maryam Raz of searching for photos among the rubble and people's emotional reactions to the photos are part of the exhibition.
Rudi Struik (1947), born in Amsterdam, grew up in Canada, where he attended the art academy in Nanaimo (Vancouver Island). He then continued studying at the Art College in The Hague, under the supervision of Frans Zwartjes and Rudy Rooijackers. Since then his practice focuses on multimedia art, using found objects, including photographic images. Rudi Struik lives and works in Leiden. In 2018, Struik made installations using old glass slides that Henri van de Waal (1946-1972) professor of art history at Leiden University used for his lectures at the time.