Sylvia de Swaan, a Romanian born photographer and visual artist, is showing her world-renowned photography project “Return: the Landscape of Memory” at the Carlson Gallery in Miller Hall.
Swaan documented her experience through a series of photographs taken throughout different parts of Eastern Europe.
Swaan and her family fled Romania as refugees.
Eventually, they made their way to the United States where she went to the High School of Music and Art in New York.
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Swaan wanted to explore her own identity and felt the need to return to her roots in order to do so.
“This was a time where the world was changing drastically, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of communism,” Swaan said.
“The world was opening up for the first time.”
Swaan explained how this monumental change inspired her to start thinking of her life’s trajectory, about where she came from and where she might be going.
Her “Return” collection also featured an array of self-portraits in which she held antique photographs of family members and photographs from her childhood.
Swaan described her collection as a story about traveling, loneliness, fellowship and photography.
Her photographs tell more than her travel experiences, they tell about her discovery back to herself.
As Swaan looked back on her self-funded trip back home to Romania, she recalled that being in those countries reminded her of her family heritage and childhood which was an emotional experience for her.
“I took a lot of pictures, and I wasn’t always sure where to point my camera because a lot of it really related to me,” Swaan said.
There were photographs that hung on the wall singularly and other pictures that were grouped in pairs.
“Initially they were all single shots, and I became interested in the idea of narratives,” Swaan said. “I started combining certain images that tell a story more like a cinema, to create more complexity.”
“I thought it was interesting that she did not know exactly what the outcome of her journey was going to look like,” said Lexie Raasch, sophomore public relations major.
Jacques Deacy, sophomore literature major, said he loved the art work and felt that the artist truly captured the perspective of living as an immigrant in American culture.
He suggested that everyone should travel to their homeland to reconnect with their background.
This exhibit was unique because it showed how one’s home country has a strong influence on a person’s culture, Deacy said.
The artist adequately showcased her roots as a Romanian immigrant through her art, Deacy said.
Dominic Gonzales, senior English major, said that at first glance, he felt the photos told a story about sadness.
“I think the black-and-white and dark feel to the photos have a melancholy and somber tone,” said Kevin Bowman, photography department manager.
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