One project, multiple stories, numerous photographs, 22 years, a massive achievement and commitment to tell. (Imperial Courts, 2010)
Strangely enough, the time I read about this project is the time now where in the US again, the country is in distress by riots, racism and police violence towards afro-Americans. It seems a never-ending and repetitive tragedy and utter contempt of equality. As if the work of Lixenberg now drastically and probably permanently is overshadowed by this new history, replacing the old. The frustration and voicelessness never ended in those past decades. South-LA in 1992 or Minneapolis 2020, nothing changed, perhaps, caused by continuous frustration, it worsened. Arthur McDuffie in 1980, Neveu Johnson in1982, and Clement Anthony Lloyd in 1989 in the upbeat to the Rodney King Riots. Countless examples of white brutality and misuse of power by the government (police a.o.) on afro-Americans continue in the years to come and erupted once again in demonstrations and riots, the last resort in a permanent struggle for justice and equality against an ongoing all-white populist government.
Dana Lixenberg works deliberately with a Wista Field 45DX large film camera (Wiegman, 2018).
“I am very attached to the process. It has something magical, it has become an extension of my view after all these years. You see the image upside down, which makes you look better at the composition. The quality of the negative is tremendous, as if it is layered.”
This calm, deliberate, neutral but attached and engaged method results in powerful, impactful portraits, almost mythical and full emotion but never sensational or “cheap drama”. The word respect comes to mind.
The drama in photography comes largely from the “small gestures, the rich texture of skin, body language and the way a person positions herself”. It is therefore hardly surprising that her portraits seem so insightful. Often, her subjects’ concentrated, fixed gaze conveys a quiet self-confidence, courage and steadfastness; small details reveal a trace of vulnerability. (Deutscheboersephotographyfoundation.org, 2015)
Deutscheboersephotographyfoundation.org. (2015). Dana Lixenberg. [online] Available at: https://www.deutscheboersephotographyfoundation.org/en/collect/artists/dana-lixenberg.php [Accessed 5 Jun. 2020].
Imperial Courts. (, 2010). Imperial Courts. [online] Available at: http://www.imperialcourtsproject.com/ [Accessed 5 Jun. 2020].
Oberon Amsterdam, www.oberon.nl (2015). Imperial Courts | IDFA. [online] Idfa.nl. Available at: https://www.idfa.nl/nl/film/b5ff036f-3db1-4d1b-ad63-1cd3e75c02d9/imperial-courts?gclid=CjwKCAjw2uf2BRBpEiwA31VZj1L-jIP9sBsHwrKt_i_Zb0m1axSZuNV4rZTuK9ShpSPF28t95vm2OBoCsUIQAvD_BwE [Accessed 5 Jun. 2020].
Vrij Nederland. (2015). Imperial Courts – Vrij Nederland. [online] Available at: https://www.vn.nl/thema/imperial-courts/ [Accessed 5 Jun. 2020].
Wiegman, M. (2018). “Ik probeer altijd een elegant portret te maken. Ook van Trump.” [online] Het Parool. Available at: https://www.parool.nl/kunst-media/ik-probeer-altijd-een-elegant-portret-te-maken-ook-van-trump~b02c3286/ [Accessed 5 Jun. 2020].