It began with a vivid dream in 1983. Or, possibly it began with the painting
by her grandfather , Paul B. Travis, (1891-1975) of “Mangbetu Women,” 1931 and his elongated rendition of their forms. Perhaps it was the painting that evoked the dream. Who knows for sure? One thing is for certain, the dream of elongated figures inhabiting a living, breathing landscape transformed Elisabeth Sunday’s work. Her first thought upon awakening was to find a way to capture that dream state in her images.
Since then, traveling the globe, Sunday has photographed indigenous peoples from Indonesia to Africa. Her quest has been, not so much to chronicle their everyday lives, but rather to chronicle their spirit. With a
daunting array of equipment – large-format cameras, real film and mirrors – she tries to focus the camera lens on the very essence of their souls. So, rather than photographing subjects directly, she positions and manipulates her mirror, photographing their reflections instead. The resulting images range from mildly elongated to compositionally abstract. The mirrors make visible a certain quality of the human spirit. They are quiet, dream-state photographs.
Her current series was taken over the last 5 years in Mali, the Africa VI Portfolio: Tuareg, 2005-2009. The Tuareg are a diverse group of people who have played an historically important role in trans-Saharan trade. To protect themselves from the desert elements, they often dress from head to toe in flowing garments. With robes blowing in the wind and bodies framed against the dunes, Sunday positions her mirrors and works her magic. The result is images with titles like Balance, Resilency and my favorite, Shelter.
Sunday’s work is currently on display in San Francisco at Gallery 291, where she has a solo show. The gallery has generously agreed to donate 10% of all proceeds from the sale of works from the Taureg series to Kah Monno, a non-profit founded by Elisabeth Sunday and her daughter, Sahara Spain. Kah Monno helps build and support schools in Africa – and, in this case, specifically for the Taureg community.
There will be an Artist’s Reception & Talk on Thursday, May 21st.