se souvenir

By Ann Lovett
New Paltz, New York: Ann Lovett, 2006. Edition of 16.

3.9 x 5.75"; 48 pages. Pigmented inkjet print on rag paper. Coptic binding sewn through accordion-pleated sheets. Rice paper endsheets. Bound in green silk-wrapped hard covers.

Ann Lovett: "The title, with obvious reference to the souvenir, means to remember in French. Se Souvenir is about Normandy, France, and the memorials and beaches commemorating the D-Day invasion during the second World War. It’s also about Max, my ex-father-in-law, whom I never met. He was wounded in the second wave of the invasion and survived, and the old photographs are of him as a soldier.

"The photographs of Max maintain the fiction that all is well, presenting a smiling uniformed soldier who looks healthy and whole. Like most family photographs, the agenda here is to show life as you want it to be, orderly, stable, rich with family and friends, and service to country, not necessarily as it is. Little in these pictures speaks of the horrors of war, what he must have seen, or the fear he must have felt. For my generation, these 'memories' are constructed from the stories our fathers told us, or more often from the imagery of Hollywood films, images of courage and heroism, and perhaps for Americans the last righteous war. For the residents of Normandy that history is very much alive. It happened in their towns and in their backyards, and though those who experienced it are dwindling in number, the memorials and the memories of heroic liberators are enmeshed in everyday life. Although there is little evidence of the damage of war in Max’s photographs or in the sparkling sands of Utah Beach, it is evident in the bruised landscape, still scarred in a few places by bomb craters, remnants of bunkers, and of course cemeteries, where French, American, British, and German soldiers are all buried.

"In Se Souvenir I am interested in creating a kind of visual poetry in how the images both resonate and collide with each other. To that end, in some page spreads the images flow together at the horizon line, while in others there is a discordant juxtaposition of space and form.

"There’s both continuity and tension between beauty and damage, between past and present, and between what appears to be documented and what we think we know. For me this book is also about the scars that don’t show, seeing Max’s war experience reverberate into his children’s lives. And perhaps it’s in part about my own father, who was a Conscientious Objector during this war, and who still weeps sometimes for those who died."