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STATEMENT. Termina is a photographic installation that tells the story of a diminishing family tree and contemplates the ending of one branch of that family’s lineage. As applied to my own family, Termina becomes a quintessential self-portrait.

Statistically, families in many places in the world are getting smaller. This trend carries profound socio-economic implications underscored by a powerful emotional impact. Not having children, whether or not a conscious decision, can bring with it sadness and nostalgia, perhaps guilt or regret. The reality of representing the last of the line can be extremely poignant.

I am fortunate to have had a family whose generations have loved taking pictures, both motion and still; so when I stumbled upon a forgotten box of 16mm film I knew I had discovered something truly special. The films had been shot between 1922 and 1945 and were in remarkably sound condition. I transferred them to DV (digital video) and downloaded them to my computer.

Three past generations of my family came to life as I viewed the films. I was especially affected by the energy radiating from the images of my great–grandmother, grandmother and mother.

Slowly, with the help of film editing software, I was able to examine each frame and discover scenes and gestures of these three women that captured their personality, character and spirit. Although I did not film the original footage, I was able to “shoot” selected frames of my maternal ancestors.

From the images I collected, I created three grids: one each devoted to my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother. At times actively posing for the camera, at others caught candidly in congenial situations with family or friends, these three women and the eras in which they lived are documented.

Four grids, positioned side by side, hang on the wall; beneath each grid is the name and date of the woman whose images are featured. Maiden and married names connect the women while birth and death dates place them in their respective generations. Under each identification is a list of that woman’s offspring.

The images in the fourth grid, eleven 8mm film stills taken between 1987-1992 and three recent self-portraits, portray the last generation in my lineage — my own. Initially, the grid format continues; but the configuration of this final grid soon transforms. The images give way to darkness like the sporadic frames of film at the end of a reel. I have taken a different path. Although it is apparent from the film stills that I, like my predecessors, have had an active life, the self-portraits acknowledge choices made: a left-facing profile looks to past generations, while a downward glance contemplates the end of the line. Finally, a steady gaze meets the present as it is. My family’s branch has dwindled and come to its end: Termina.

Termina addresses a reality that resonates with many people today. It asks questions and provokes dialogue about the choice to bear and raise children, the future of family in both personal and universal contexts, and the socio-economic and emotional implications of these realities.

Each of the four grids is comprised of two abutting lambda fibre print panels. On each print panel eight images or empty spaces are displayed. The dimensions of each image and space are 11" x 16" resulting in grids of sixteen images that are 4.5 ft. x 6 ft.

Each grid is mounted on dibond and fitted for gravity bar hanging.

The text beneath the images will be applied in vinyl to the gallery wall.

Elizabeth Siegfried

The installation is also available as four 3 ft. x 4 ft grids each made up of two abutting lambda fibre print panels. In this case each image and space is 8 1/2 in. x 11 in.

© 2008 Elizabeth Siegfried All Rights Reserved