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I keep returning to the deteriorated archival photographs that I used in my installation We Were Here, and in other paintings for my exhibit The Sisterhood of Longing. I collected copies of these photographs when I worked at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and I spent several months last year visiting archives and asking archivists and conservators for damaged turn of the century photographic portraits of prairie women and girls. B8377  Frank & Harriet Oliver's daughters - PAAFrank and Harriet Oliver’s daughters, [1880s], Collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, B8377 

I specifically sought out photographs that at least partially obscured the subject, that were symbolic of the obscuring of early prairie women’s contributions to the settlement of the west. Damage to the photographs included mold, silvering out, stains, fading, emulsion lifting and cracking.08 Flour bag installation image - deteriorated photo - Clara OliverClara Oliver, Edmonton, AB, [1880s], Collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, B8383 

These photographs have created a struggle between my archival self in my concern for the damaged photos, and my artistic self in my appreciation of their strange beauty.G2359 Red Deer ArchivesUnidentified group, collection of Red Deer and District Archives, #G2359

I am beginning a prairie women portrait series and I feel the influence of these pensive, gossamer images. We will see where they continue to take me…Scan0124Watercolour by Marlena Wyman