Fabricated Memories

Photography professor Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s project explores her childhood and her choices.

Dad & Ajit
By Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Professor of Art
From ‘Fabricated Memories, 1997–2000,’ a collection of Polaroid emulsion transfers on paper in a handmade accordion book. Edition of five. Each 6” x 4-1/2” x 220” book presented in a Chesterfield cigarette box.

“I was born in England, and lived there until I was 10,” says photographer Annu Palakunnathu Matthew. “My memories of that place are tied to my father. He died young, from smoking, one year after we moved from England to India. ‘Fabricated Memories’ commemorates my father’s twentieth death anniversary.”

Dad & Ajit juxtaposes a photo of a taxi and driver created by Matthew in England in 1997 with a family photo of her father and brother. “I inserted the older photo to fabricate a memory that reflects my childhood.”

Through ‘Fabricated Memories,’ Matthew considers the void her father’s death left and questions whether he would have supported her choice to become a photographer.

Dad & Ajit is the cover image of Matthew’s book, The Answers Take Time, which surveys her career and work, often focused on themes of identity and memory and incorporating mixed media and manipulated photos. “My work is photo-based,” says Matthew, “but I’m not a traditional photographer in terms of creating a picture and that being the end of the process.”

As a teacher, Matthew “finds the ever-expanding digital toolbox exciting, offering new possibilities to get our ideas across. As technology develops, my teaching responds.” She adds, “I want my students to be fearless about technology so they can nimbly adapt to what comes next. The arts and humanities, where we think creatively and learn to ask difficult questions, are critical for the future.”

Matthew has exhibited around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the RISD Museum.

—Barbara Caron