Disappearing into the Past

Text by Astrid la Cour

The title Disappearing into the Past refers to memory as a dynamic, never-ending process. Kruse Jensen’s works challenge our notion of the photograph as a moment frozen in time. Instead she makes the medium part of an ongoing process where subject, photographic material and memory merge – and become part of a larger narrative about cognizance and living memory.
In this series Kruse Jensen seeks whole new perspectives in her approach to photography. Whereas she used sophisticated photography technology in her earlier projects, she has now turned to the Polaroid camera, which has neither the same capacity nor the ability to reproduce fine detail. Behind the choice of imperfection and lack of control lies not only a desire to challenge the traditional working methods of the past 14 years, but also an unmistakable acknowledgement of personal vulnerability, a desire to let go – and relinquish herself to a medium that is impossible to control. In an earlier project, The Construction of Memories, she focused on memory. She continues to do so, only now she has abandoned control. In the past she used contrived means to set the scene. Every element of her motif was carefully constructed and everything under her control. Artificial light pierced the darkness of night. In Disappearing into the Past she allows the diffuse light of day, the technical imperfections of the Polaroid camera and the outmoded chemistry to play their role in creating the final motif.

A general aspect of Kruse Jensen’s work is that she does not photograph places as they would appear to us in reality. In several of her earlier projects, light and dark meet in a way we would never experience with our own eyes. Long exposures give the light in these pictures a dense, textural and almost intense vitality that seems unearthly. In this way, the photograph captures more than the human eye can perceive, opening up a visual space that exists solely by virtue of the photographic eye.

Among the interiors photographed in Disappearing into the Past we rediscover the deep, enigmatic darkness that dominated her earlier works. However, in this series it is primarily light, often in the form of overexposure that casts a veil, blurring distinctions in much the same way as the cloak of darkness was used to conceal in the earlier works. For example, in one of the works a girl’s blond hair fuses with the interior, and in another reflections in a car window dissolve a face, which spreads like a luminous halo across the image and opens up towards an eternity. Or at least to an era alien to our time.
This sense of disappearing and intangibility beguiles us, rousing a narrative desire that forces us to try and place each individual motif in a process – a before and an after. But at the same time we are captivated as viewers. As in other projects by Kruse Jensen, these wordless, touching images embrace a sense of indeterminate time – as though the progressive beat of time is punctuated by horizontal openings.

Unlike literary narrative, the photograph has no connection with linear forward movement. The traditional aim of photography is to freeze a moment in time. At the very moment the photographer clicks the shutter, the subject becomes part of the past. The act of photography thus implies a form of ‘loss’, an unspoken narrative of loss inherent in the photographic act. In Disappearing into the Past the dynamic moves in the opposite direction. Kruse Jensen strives to collect sensations, moods and impressions in a subject that is not a ‘here and now’ but rather a ‘once upon a time – perhaps’.
Light penetrates dense forest trees, steps descend into the dark all-engulfing water of a lake, a little girl swings up towards the sky, and a woman sits in a boat gazing across the lake – simultaneously absent and present. The faces in the photographs are either turned away, blurred or overexposed. It is unclear whether this is the same person photographed as a child and as an adult. Or is it mother and daughter? Is this a contemporary or a far distant time and place? Is it a big, single pictorial narrative or a collection of random fragments?

Spaces and landscapes bask in an enchanted light, inviting us on a journey of moods, recollection and time that evokes memories of endless, carefree childhood summers. But a sense of unease disturbs both mood and subject. A sense evoked not only by the content of the photographs and their distinctive aesthetic but above all by the spots and trails of irregular traces that the chemistry of the photographic medium leaves in its wake. These chemical traces weave their way into the dense forest and the dark depths of the water. In some of the photographs the contours of leaking chemicals trickle across the surface; in others they crystallise into fantastic formations. Many of these shapes resemble organic living structures, combining with the subject to create an autonomous abstract image – a form of double exposure. The ethereal appearance of the photographs and the visible chemical traces make them seem part of a process: being developed yet at the same time fading away.