I was often compared to my aunt Samia when I was growing up, with various family members telling me something along the lines of, “Your heart is too sweet Carmen, like your aunt. Be careful.”
Samia was born and raised in Lebanon. Like many other Lebanese of her generation, she survived a civil war that had an indelible impact on family structures, especially the evolving role of women.
Many of these women now live to tell the stories of what became their routines of aloneness. Decisions were made for them; they were compelled to live lives beyond sacrifice, eventually leading to profound loneliness.
These hostesses of solitude may have built up imaginary images of themselves as wives and mothers, but each later faced reality and escaped to the career path where all proved themselves.
This series consists of staged “tableau-vivant” images, compositions in which these women are photographed in a parallel dimension: one in which the routine steps into their beds – the place where, most attest, they feel the loneliest.
The dreamlike effect of these photographs was inspired by French Painter Edouard Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe,” whose casual juxtaposition of jarringly apposite images scandalised 19th-century Paris but echoes even now in the instinctive objectification that still permeates much of both traditional and popular culture.
Like Manet’s, my goal is not to present new images or compositions thereof for the sake of mere novelty, to gain attention but not hold it. Instead, it is to shock most viewers, invade their comfort zones, and force them to really think about an issue of great importance for the building of a just and equitable society.
In this way my subjects are more than muses of celibacy framed in melancholy moments. Their lives continue and their stories need more than ever to be told, and hopefully I’ve helped do that.