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Biomedicine in museums

Identity: how little we actually change over time

By February 21, 2011No Comments

I’ve spent some time last week watching, in fascination, Buenos Aires-based photographer Irina Werning’s “Back to the future”, a series of juxtapositions of images of individuals at different ages.

She finds people who have portraits of themselves as a young child (not very difficult, most of us have) and then re-enacts the portrait with a contemporary version of the same person placed in the same position, showing the same face expression, wearing the same clothes. Here, for example, is “Lucia in 1956 & 2010, Buenos Aires”:

I think these images are fascinating, because they support the experience I’ve made through biography writing, namely how little people actually change over time. They have an identity (from ‘identidem’: repeatedly, continually, constantly). In spite of many attempts in the humanities and social sciences over the last dacades to deconstruct the notion of individual identity, people usually remain the same over decades.

In the case of biography writing, one is confronted with the constancy of individual thoughts and verbal expressions over time. In the case of Werning’s photo series, one is confronted with the constancy of physiognomy. The re-enactment in terms of positioning, clothing etc. only enhances the physiognomic identity.

(thanks to Carsten Timmermann for the tip about Irina Werning)

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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