Photographer and Indiana University Northwest professor Jennifer Greenburg has been gathering vintage negatives for years. In her work Revising History, Greenburg appropriates these black and white images by digitally inserting herself as a main character, mimicking the gestures of the moment and the clothing of the period. By circumventing someone else’s photographs and calling them her own, Greenburg exhibits the innately false nature of memory and the family snapshot.
I think a lot of artists collect old photographs as there is a sort of mystery and unknown to them. What made you decide to insert yourself into someone else’s memories?
“When I look at someone else’s life though the lens of someone else’s camera, I create my own stories. I have done this as long as I can remember. Usually when someone shows you their photographs, they cannot help but narrate the images. I ignore that narration. Instead, I make up a fantasy in my own mind. I idealize everything– becoming quite nostalgic– even if the subjects in the photos are completely unknown to me. I prefer a wistful interpretation. Photography is an interpretation of what is in front of the lens. Yet, as a culture, we rarely acknowledge that. We still believe that what we see in a photograph is truthful.
“The fantasy of all photographs is what I am commenting on through my work. By placing myself in a time and place that could not possibly be real, I address the concept that the lens does not hold much, or any, truth.”