(In)Complete Instruction by Carlo Trivelli
In Backdrop, Astrid Jahnsen pries, armed with her camera and a macro lens, into the very fabric that makes up photographs. fShe scrutinizes simple, straightforward documentary pictures found in old encyclopedias: a 1956 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a 1962 edition of Collier’s Encyclopedia, both of which she used to read in her childhood and were part of her general education.
With a renewed interest in re-photographing old documents to reveal their ideological biases, Astrid returned to these encyclopedias in search for the way in which women were represented in them. What she found was, obviously, much less than she expected: women were virtually absent from those repositories of knowledge, from those comprehensive and authoritative descriptions of how the world is. Ironically enough, there were many women represented in those big books, but almost never as the subjects of the entries, almost never as characters or personalities (one would say, almost never as persons). Instead, they appear as part of the background information of certain photographs. That is, not photographs of this or that woman in particular, but anonymous women appearing involuntarily as part of a scene shot to describe something else.
One cannot but imagine Astrid’s reaction when she went back to her childhood encyclopedias and discovered that the whole world-view into which she had grown made women visible only as part of the backdrop of its representations of society. Thus, her prying into these pictures to reveal their biases: the exaggerated magnification of the small details of the picture accomplished through the macro lens reveals the dot matrix of the printed image, a metaphor for the prejudices that make up the very fabric of the world as represented in these encyclopedias.