We are very pleased to feature Astrid Reischwitz for our August profile. A Fine Art photographer, Astrid's beautiful works have been seen in exhibits at 555 Gallery and Sohn Fine Art, the Danforth Museum and the Griffin Museum of Photography and SoHo Photo Gallery. Her work has been honored as finalist in the Lense Culture Awards and was selected in the top 50 in Critical Mass with Photolucida.
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Stories from the Kitchen Table
In Stories from the Kitchen Table, photographer Astrid Reischwitz translates the chronicles of her female ancestors from a rural German village into fertile and resonant visual narratives. Nostalgia for the childhood farmhouse that was home to generations before her are mixed with an awareness that the dwelling, along with its memories and traditions will soon disappear, mirroring a nearly universal sentiment that one can never really return home.
A cherished tradition among the women Reischwitz salutes were “spin clubs” where intimate friends shared tales around the kitchen table while creating and mending household goods, literally and figuratively spinning the fabric of their lives. Reischwitz photographs samples of traditional costumes and fabrics, furnishings and garden flowers from her home to infer those stories, adorning and framing archival family pictures and current portraits of her young daughter wearing garments from this legacy. Fashioned into elegantly composited diptychs and triptychs, Reischwitz has crafted revealing and mysterious vignettes, each a richly woven conversation between generations that invites us to reflect on our own heritage.
- Elin Spring, Blogger, photographer & Initiative Contributor
Photographer Astrid Reischwitz’ latest portfolios have transitioned to a personal and more conceptual perspective. Stories from the Kitchen Table explores her heritage and the meaning of home. In The Bedroom Project she creates intimate portraits, bringing personal spaces into public view. In The Gift of Regret she turns the camera inward in an exploration of her own history and values. An earlier portfolio, Street Art, reflected outward towards street art murals and the diversity of urban life.
A graduate of the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany, with a PhD in chemistry, Reischwitz began her study of photography at the International Center of Photography in New York soon after moving to the United States. After relocating to the Boston area she continued her studies at the New England School of Photography, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, DeCordova Museum School, and Photography Atelier at Lesley University and Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester MA. She also holds a certificate in Arts Administration from New York University.
I created “Stories from the Kitchen Table” to preserve and honor a fading way of life in my childhood home, a continent away. Going home means travelling the long distance back to a small village in northern Germany and my family’s old farmhouse, a house that seems untouched by modern time, and, one day soon, will be left behind.
The hardship of farming and events during World War II cast a prickly shadow over family members that can still be felt today. Telling these tales gives me a chance for reflection and transformation. Memories and emotions intertwine into new stories.
When I visit, I absorb the ingredients of home: the flavors of dishes that are so familiar, and the same furnishings, photographs, knick-knacks, and worn kitchen tools that have been there since well before I was born. Most of all, the very essence of home for me is gathering around the kitchen table to sit down for a meal with family and friends and share stories old and new.
Connecting past and present, my composites include old family photos combined with images reflecting how I perceive my heritage today. I use flowers and fragmented images of fabric: these dish towels, tablecloths, napkins, and decorative wall hangings (dating back to 1799) were passed down from generation to generation - a salute to the women who lived and worked under the roof of this old house. Pieces of the traditional costume, buried for decades in an old farmer’s trunk, add a layer of local history to my images.
My grandmother was a great influence. She was the overseer and guide of a local farmhouse museum across the street; she was the keeper of local history and the keeper of family stories and tales that often were shared among women in “spin clubs.” In past times, “spin clubs” met with the purpose of spinning wool, doing needlework, and stitching tablecloths and wall hangings. These close-knit groups of women stayed together until death. Today, these clubs barely exist. “Stories from the Kitchen Table” transforms this tradition of storytelling into a visual journey.
Astrid Reischwitz 2017