The global award in photography and sustainability

Sophie Ristelhueber

“In these pictures, everything is true and false at the same time.

The raw material was video rushes from Iraq, taken by local Reuters correspondents,

which I viewed at their London office. I was looking for pictures of the craters – the “tombs”– that open up in the ground in Iraq several times a week, or even a day.

Working on stills taken from the rushes, I put together my own pictures, using computer techniques to reconstruct scenes that were both real and imaginary, and incorporating elements of my own earlier work. This mix of material comes from different territories –Turkmenistan in 1997, Syria in 1999, Iraq in 2000, the West Bank in 2003/20004 – and reflects the vision of history as chaos that has haunted me since I worked in Beirut in 1982.”

SR, 2006

Excerpts of an interview by Laure Vermeersch in Vacarme magazine (Paris) n°37, fall 2006

“My works often stems from real events. In mid-February last year, the ex-prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, was killed in a bomb explosion; everyone saw the televised image, a crate three times of my studio, it was unbelievable;

It made me think that this was how to treat Iraq, where bombs go off all the time. I tried to dismiss the idea, but it only got stronger. However, there is universality to the subject that goes beyond Iraq: after these car-bomb explosions, it’s as if the earth was sucked out from its centre. I am inspired by the idea of earth charged with history swallowing itself up. I have to think up a form that lets me consider all these comparisons at the same time. This work has meant mixing up so many images and obsessions that I’ve held onto for the last 25 years that I can now say that I have probably finished with these epics.

Some commentators have referred to work on ‘traces’. I would rather say a revealing of things, objects and lives that I shoot through buildings and architecture.”