The Distances Between Us is a visual investigation of cemetery markers used to describe the anonymous deceased.
Borrowing its structure from Barthe's Camera Lucida, the first half of the book contains photographs of elaborately carved stones labeled father and mother. These markers glow in the light of the golden hour, hovering between lightness and darkness and revealing relationships between the living and the dead. Each stone functions as a stand-in for our collective lineage: my mother, your father, our family. The love for the lost is evident in the careful treatment of each stone and the language that they bear.
This familial intimacy disappears in the latter half of the book, which culls black and white photographs of numbered markers made of concrete and steel. In these photographs, shot in hidden cemeteries that serve state-run hospitals, jails and schools, relationships are erased to reveal bureaucratic motives to expunge responsibility and sanitize involvement. Like the bodies they represent, the markers and their memories are being slowly consumed by the earth until nothing else remains.
A text-picture in the center of the book elucidates the artist’s experience designing a loved one's headstone, binding these two sets of photographs together. Collectively, the images explore photography’s inherent relationship to memory and loss. They recall nineteenth century post-mortem photographs, eulogic portraits of loved ones displayed on mantels, and the desperation we feel to immortalize the lost. The suggestion of the slippage between memory and reality is palpable; the identifying information on these markers bears witness to the disintegration that occurs with the transmission of time. Like the printed photograph that has a lifespan of just two hundred years, these memories and markers will also slowly disappear until nothing else remains.
This is Sarah Pollman’s first monograph. It is due out in late 2016/early 2017 by Trema Förlag (Stockholm, Sweden). Pre-order information is forthcoming.