Privation Book No. 181 (back), 2001
German, Canadian, 1952
ink jet print
100 x 60 cm approx.; image: 73 x 56 cm approx.; integral frame: 113.8 x 92.9 x 3.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 41112)
© Angela Grauerholz
charred remains of book without cover, pages folded over at top, speckled with black soot
This series of photographs is arguably Angela Grauerholz's most autobiographical work to date. The destruction of her and her husband's Montreal apartment by fire in May of 1999 signalled the end of a library that they had carefully assembled for almost twenty-five years. Grauerholz commemorates the devastation of her library by creating images of 300 of the 1,000 books and fragments of books salvaged from the ashes. Fascinated by the ways in which the books had been transformed by the fire, she first set about grouping the charred volumes according to several criteria. The first to be isolated were those that now resembled ceramic slabs. They were followed by those that still had text visible on their covers. Finally, she moved to the categories of colour and subject matter. The images in "Privations" possess a hyper-realist presence that seems to be driven, not by nostalgia, but by the need to preserve the tangible remains of what was lost. In this series, Grauerholz used a very direct process of image capture. On a high-resolution scanning bed she created scans of the front and back covers of each of the 300 books. Later she scaled and otherwise manipulated to the images to her liking.