What hidden stories await discovery in photo studio archives? What can we discern in portraits flush with the hopes and dreams of individuals who have left their homeland? Can such images help us understand past experiences of migration and colonization? These and other questions are bound up in the history of Studio Rex, located in Marseille in the south of France and run for two generations by the Kessayans, an Armenian-Cypriot family, from 1933 to 2018. The studio was a meeting place for many migrants. The photographs include individuals in formalwear gazing solemnly at the camera as they pose for official passport photographs; but also self-stagings with props against a variety of backdrops, as well as photomontages that unite families separated by the Mediterranean. Today, French collector Jean-Marie Donat owns much of the photo studio’s archive.
For the first time in Germany, C/O Berlin will show a selection of works taken from this extensive collection of photographs and negatives from between 1966 and 1985. The images evoke a dialogue between Africa and Europe, as well as an exchange between private and collective memory and forgetting, and between past and present.