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Sabine Mirlesse

Going Home – Dust Ashes

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This ongoing project is based on interpretations of origin and return to where one comes from. It is an investigation into the emotional experience of ‘home’ and what that means for different individuals—whether it be a place of nostalgia or of dread— it ultimately relates to the reality of one’s mortality and intimate journey through the self. I believe the passage of time is most apparent in the relationship between a person and the origin-place he or she departs from both physically and emotionally in the natural course of his or her evolution and aging process leaving both family and/or landscape behind.

The natural life cycle of birth and dying is one of return, yet hopefully through exploring this return of our own accord we emotionally transcend our own inevitability and replace it instead with an epiphany of the infinity of the spirit in the face of time. These images seek to express the love, vulnerability, and enduring strength of source. They are a testament to the quiet way in which we excel our origins, in whatever form they came, how we learn to elude them, and yet drink from their wellsprings to become more evolved hearts and souls, and indeed ‘whole beyond confusion’ (“Directive” (Line 62). Robert Frost, 1947).



Sabine Mirlesse holds a BA in Religious Studies and English Literature from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and is currently completing her MFA in Photography from Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. She lives and works in Brooklyn.


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Sabine Mirlesse


24 thoughts on “sabine mirlesse – going home dust ashes”

  1. 9, 10, 15 and 18 really stand out for me. beautifully created.
    i think that the edit could perhaps do without the ‘peep hole’ images? i don’t think they bring the piece down, but are quite different to the others which made me feel a little disjointed.
    i think they could stand alone as a piece to themselves!

  2. “Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.”-simone weil

    i love this essay…and i really really loved the aperature/pinhole/peephole/uterin pictures…particularly the last one with the father and daughter….just extraordinary….

    i love that this essay, for me, deals with a fundamental understanding of what it means to return to self and home and underlying presence: who are me inside this reverent shell….the 35mm pics are lovely, some really powerful and particularly powerful and metaphoric, but what i felt was best engaging was the essay’s return to beginnings, really…in other words, this essay is really a contraption of sneaking time, from the ‘now’ of a moment (god damn, i feel like that guy in the chair in the shallow ocean waters, so often in my life) as a thread to get to the beginnings and origins of who we are….in clever and lovely cinematic ways…in many ways, this is much closer to cinema (my heart’s drive) than conceptual photography, like the films of lucria martel (argentina)….

    i actually wanted this to go on, longer and longer….for in truth, it’s an essay about the division of self, into our many disparate parts (parents, sisters, brothers, lovers, child, self as old, etc) into the whole of who we are…

    i love photograhy that questions rather than answers, photography that seeks a way to use the external world as a vehicle to explore the internal world….and that what this essay is, an algebra of small parts that attempt at explaining who we are….in small, discordant parts that dislocate and yet make up the harmonious self….the walls of wrapping to communicate…

    beautiful, thoughtful and powerful work….aand keep those peephole pictures, they are gorgeous

    congrats Sabine on the work and on being published…..what a lovely story to swim in this morning…..


  3. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    I agree with Martin above but less for the color of your website and more for the edit. I think it’s far stronger as you have it on your site. And I was curious too about the different treatment of image #15 here vs. the way it appears on your website – I like the fuller frame version as it is above.

    You have a lovely eye. As we all must, just keep making the work. Congratulations Sabine.

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  5. Sabine

    Congratulations. A wonderful treat this morning.

    Bob B, thanks for your insights and wonderful reading of this work.

    Sabine, so many gorgeous images. #1, the levitating girls, brilliant. 4, the first peephole picture, (actually, I read them as reflections in a mirror), 5, more levitation, 10, fairies beckoning through the looking glass, conjured from a long ago mental image formed in childhood…and on and on.

    Every Image here seems familiar somehow, triggers a feeling of recognition somewhere in me. Every image works very well on its own. As a series it is very powerful. While I do like most of the peephole pictures, I have to agree somewhat with Jonathan. I adore #4 as it is, but the others I could do without, or would prefer seeing them in a non-peephole format.

    Great stuff (and I love the work on your site)

  6. Bravo Sabine!!
    I love personal photography and fine art, and to me this is both.
    Difficult to say which one is my favorite, but if I had to hang one image in my living room tomorrow, it’ll probably be #10.
    Going to check out your website to see what else I finf there ;)


  7. SABINE,

    I very much enjoyed looking at your work not only the essay posted here but also on your website… To be honest, I do not love every image here but you have a real talent and there are some photographs in particular that I have really enjoyed (like Ramon, I love nb 10 as well as 4,5). I also liked many images at the start of your mannequin series on your website (nb 2,3,4,5)..

    Well done Sabine.


  8. Hi Sabine.

    I feel these idea’s in conveying ‘coming home’ are many good ones. Just to add my criticism… I often find there is a fine line between good and very good, and though it might only be a fine line, its usually very difficult to define. Usually because there very subtle differences; I felt that with some of these images. I feel many are good, but I also feel that some of them could be very good. I wish I could say how I think you could improve them but I guess thats what making something really good so difficult, its not that easy. And anyway, thats for you to contemplate and feel out. Its also a very abstract theme making it all the more difficult to convey, broadly speaking.

    Look forward in seeing more of your work Sabine.

  9. i like your essay sabine… very moody… lots.

    but i dont know what you just said… in your intro/statement.
    i wished you’d kept it simple and straightforward… like your pictures.
    it just left me scratching my head.

  10. Yes – you got it: you depicted us as we are ghosts of our soon-to-be dead selfs, and then photographic ghosts once we are dead. I like them all, but the one of the boat turned upside down is for me the most etheral and mortal ghostly of all.

  11. inspired me to make a “thinking out loud list”

    — both the text and the pictures allows the other to act quite freely (are they too vague?)
    — i wish the text was more specific and didn’t make me think you figured out what the pictures should be about after making them (which may or may not be very important on how to judge the whole thing!)
    — 01 and 14 for instance doesn’t make think so much about “home”, but more about a fashion shoot
    — 09 and 12 works better with what i would expect from your text, but maybe i’m being very conservative here
    — 08, my favourite from the essay, reminds me of the fact that it is our brains, not our eyes, that make us see everything right-side-up
    — i like the blend of styles + the variation between showing faces / hiding faces

  12. Hey Sabine, I have nothing but admiration for you in tackling a conceptual project like going home and representing with photos, your eye, what that means to you. It is extremely difficult (for me anyway and I have heard for most photographers) to do and getting past the “epicurean” (self-indulgent) feel of this kind of work is way hard.

    There are some wonderful photos in this series, especially numbers 2 (loved the curtain view), 4 (I thought was a window into a steam room until I saw others in same format), 8 (confused by it a bit), and 9 (for a reason I cannot pinpoint just get drawn in). The feeling your beautiful essay left me with was as the person going home you are not very old; and that you had a very pleasant home and relatively happy childhood. I agree with Gracie on your bio as it was not very clear to me either.

    The possibility that anyone who revisits their home after being away for a long period of time could reproduce the memories of their life in a piece like yours, becomes more difficult the longer they are away. Speaking from my own personal experience obviously.

    I look forward to seeing more from you in the future. Your bravery in presenting your work here is an inspiration to me.

  13. Sabine, this is a wonderfully evocative exploration of “home,” a metaphorical state of being yet oh-so-real place that each of us remembers in powerful ways. Your images are non-specific enough that they allow each viewer to remember bits and pieces of their own homes, like in a barely remembered dream.

    Regarding the use of the pinhole format, it was somewhat jarring to me. I suggest you consider using a very blurry edge to the shape. To me, that would better connote the idea of putting my eye to the keyhole of the past.

    I truly admire your skill as a photographer. These images are consistently superb. You already have your own unique voice. I look forward to seeing where you go from here…


  14. GermanArtDirector

    For me, this kind of verbose artist statement really takes away from the work. As an art director, I would not want to work closely with a photographer who tosses about phrases like “origin-place.”

  15. I usually look at the pictures before I read the explanation of an essay… In this case I must admit I did not understand the meaning of the work until I read it, which is not a plus in my opinion… This said, some of the pictures are really beautiful.

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