For her series The Absence of All Colors, the artist Ludmila Steckelberg creates a visual catalog of death; scouring her old family photo albums, she removes the photographic imprints of the dead, leaving blackened figures in their wake. Like fading recollections of face and features, these blank gaps— merely standing in for the deceased— leave an invisible mark on collective family memory. These old black and white images, now sepia-toned with age, are poignantly robbed of their power to immortalize and preserve those passed away. As with death itself, the act of removal, executed cleanly by the artist, is heartrendingly permanent and cannot be undone.
Steckelberg’s work is an unsetting exploration of the undeniable bond of photography and death. The photograph, though two-dimensional, suggests the three-dimensionality of life; here, the dead return to a state of two-dimensionality, receding from the aesthetic world of the living into an abstracted, flattened plane. The darkness they inhabit is utterly unimaginable to us, and yet they seem to be capable of observing us. In this shocking inversion, the viewer feels watched, gazed upon from the black depths. Pasted on one page of a family album, a removed couple faces into the opposite page, searching its blankness for an unknowable something.
Here, the living are left entirely alone, trapped within a space that once seemed full and vibrant, but is revealed to be merely an illusion by the artist’s careful cutting. Men and women look trapped within the borders of the deconstructed photograph, yearning to leap forth, to reconnect with those lost to darkness. (via Lensculture)