Les Non-Réclamés (The Unclaimed) (small)2015
The notion of Les Non-Réclamés (The Unclaimed) came from an anonymous photograph entitled, 'Insurges Non-Réclamés,' showing dead Communards, of the Paris Commune of 1871, lined up in their coffins as if for some kind of morbid school photograph. Another photograph entitled, Insurés tués pendant la Semaine sanglante de la Commune (Insurgents killed during Bloody Week), attributed to Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, is strikingly similar.
The Paris Commune itself is as much a mysterious, shifting narrative as is the debate surrounding the authorship of these photographs, their purpose and the identities of their subjects. From the most reliable sources it seems clear that photographers were hired by the Commune from the beginning, to record the dead for identification purposes. After the defeat of the Commune the Government continued to hire the photographers, still charged with the task of photographing the dead and the prisoners for identification purposes. There is a lot of intriguing circumstantial detail in the photographs. The identity of the insurgents, for example, is reduced to a number laid on each man's chest; two men even have the same number. With these paintings I try to tease out some meaning or story yet finally they fluctuate between certainty and uncertainty, the detail and the emptiness. So much is there and so much is missing. The intrigue and the ever shifting speculations are what make the subject so paint-able, along with the immense power of the photographs themselves and the remarkable historical events they are a part of.