Possible and imaginary lives

Rozenn Quéré, Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh
Project produced thanks to the Festival Images (Vevey, Switzerland)
2012 / 16.5 x 23.5 cm / 162 pages
Publisher: Editions Photosynthèses / Festival Images
Graphic design: Till Gathmann
Languages: French, English, Arabic
100 photographs / original formats / sound / text booklet

Today. Interior/day, a veranda in the Seine-et-Marne, France. A lady is playing a game of patience.
We hear ‘click, click, click’, then her voice whispering: “5, 4, 3, 2...”. This is FRIEDA.
A very old white-haired woman sits watching her. This is AUNTIE ELSE.

I assure you that no one in my family had any idea about it. My brother, my sisters, they had no idea I didn’t exist. Nor did I, not the slightest doubt. When I came to France at the age of thirty-three, that’s when I found out. Impossible to get a birth certificate.
I’d never been registered, not anywhere. And why is that? Because they started bombing Jerusalem when I was born. Everyone was terrified. The nuns told Mama: ‘Hurry up!' Papa told her: 'Hurry up! The twins are at home, Stella and Grazie.' And she pushed the baby out. The nuns spoke in Italian, about it being a boy or a girl, Mama said: 'It could be a monkey for all I care, let’s get it over with! It’s my sixth time!' So out I came, they wrapped me up, the nuns rushed down to the basement, and Papa and Mama hurried back home. It was so dangerous, they wanted to get back for the other children.

* * *

This is the story of four strong and feisty woman, exiled to the four corners of the globe, four Palestinian-Lebanese sisters who traversed the 20th century. It is a story somewhere between documentary and fiction, biography and drama, based on family photographs and taped interviews—a narrative of both actual and imagined events.
It is a reflection upon ways of gathering, sifting, listening to and making stories and words emerge. It is a reflection upon how to recreate these stories and words in the present, in the most vivid possible way, by combining the inner experiences of these women with the lived experiences of the gatherings. Herein is a reinterpretation of reality tinged with tenderness and humour. The four women’s and the two photographers’ imagination is at the core of this work.
Jocelyne, the oldest sister, lived in Cairo; Frieda, the youngest, went into exile in Paris; Stella left Lebanon at the time of the civil war for New York; Graziella, her twin, is the only one has remained behind in Beirut.
Far from being a factual or historical portrait of Graziella and her sisters, Possible and Imaginary Lives is an attempt to convey the eccentricities and the imagination of these women so as to give their imaginings the same status as reality. In other words, by combining old family photographs and text, we were not aiming to write their story, but to write their myth.

The installation has been presented in:
Images Festival, Vevey (Switzerland). September 2012.
Chobi Mela Festival, Dakka (Bangladesh). January 2013.
Arles Photo Festival (France). July-September 2013
Beyrouth Art Center (Lebanon). November 2013-January 2014.
Stimultania (Strasbourg, France). April-June 2014.
Rencontres photo de Gaspésie (Canada). July-September 2014.
Galerie 247 (Paris, France). March-april 2015.
Contemporary Image Collective (Cairo, Egypt). November 2016.

Real and imagined memories of four sisters from Palestine, d'Olivia Snaije
True lies, by Kevin Jones
La photographie au prisme du souvenir, by Stéphanie Jacquet
Vies possibles et imaginaires, by Yasmine Youssi

Sound extract

'Possible and imaginary lives' was the winning project of the Vevey International Photography Award in 2011.
In 2013, R. Quéré and Y. Eid-Sabbagh were also laureate of the 'Discovery Award' after exhibiting this project in Les Rencontres d'Arles.

With the support of Wallonie-Bruxelles International.