Shortlist Aperture Paris Photo Photography Award 2017
"On March 2, 1998, Suzanne Gloria Lyall walked home from her usual bus stop, on the way to her campus dorm room. That’s the last time anybody saw her.
Eighteen years later, she still hasn’t been found, in spite of the search efforts of police, her parents, and those enlisted by her parents, including a psychic who hovered her hands above old photos, hoping to form a connection. Although Suzanne’s parents, Mary and Doug Lyall, were able to find some closure — in 2001 they founded the Center for Hope, a community providing support and resources to the parents of missing children — they never stopped searching for their daughter.
Their story of tenacity, and of a relentless search for traces of evidence, caught the attention of photographer Virginie Rebetez, whose previous work centered on the way missing and unidentified people are described and depicted in police reports.
“In all my photographic projects I am interested in the invisible, the meaning of identity, the traces we leave behind after death or an absence, in unfinished stories, in the materiality we, as humans, need for closure,” Rebetez said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “I can say, in a way, that I use photography to give consistence, materiality, to the invisible, to give a shape, a form to what is not there anymore.” (...) “I found the different use of the photographs of Suzanne by all the different people involved in the case quite interesting. Psychics used the portraits of her not for the representation of her but as an object they handled and touched in order to get a connection,” Rebetez said. “The more you read these files, the more your head is filled with stories, but the less you know. After 18 years, Suzanne’s case is still unresolved.” (V.R.)
The project is a thoughtful commentary on the need we have for closure, which, unlike other forms of comfort, like hope or faith, often must come in the form of something physical. Rebetez hopes viewers will feel provoked by her meditation on loss, but more than anything she hopes the project will raise awareness for Suzanne’s story.
“She disappeared in a time lapse of five minutes,” Rebetez reflects, reiterating the mystery and tragedy of the case. “The distance between the bus stop to her university campus dorm.”
"'Out of the blue' brings together a lot of different material (textual & photographic) coming from different sources (new material & archives) creating a portrait of Suzanne Gloria Lyall and questioning at the same time the different status of the photographic image and the documents. Within a multi-layered narrative, the project offers a new echo to this dramatic and still unresolved story.
Images of the first NY Police helicopter search, landscapes relevant to the story, portraits, family archives, Police leads, emails / fax / letters / drawings from different psychics (mediums) involved in the case, Suzanne belongings and clothing, maps, age-progressed composite made by forensic artist, still life...
This selected and reorganized material starts to speak with each other in a new way, opening up a new space for speculations and new links. The status of each image and document is constantly shifting and offering new meaning and new context. Throughout the book, Suzanne's face is never clearly shown; Disappearing between the pages, as she is living outside the frame, in an invisible world. The only clear and straight portraits of her are the three "age-progressed composites", made in collaboration with a US professional forensic artist, depicting her possible features today, at the age of 38.
During the investigation, the various photographs of Suzanne were used by different psychics not for the representation of her, but as objects they touched, in order for them to connect and get closer to Suzanne; so the project focuses on that aspect and offers a reflection on the status of the image.
The book is the perfect form for this project and should be seen as the work itself. Because of the conceptual aspect of the project first, but also because of the distribution and circulation of the book. The story will enter a new field; not the police or the press anymore, but the art world, so it will bring some new discussions and repercussions and hopefully some answers to her disappearance." (text from successful ended kickstarter campaign)
Ausgangspunkt für das Buch ist die seit 1988 vermisste US-Amerikanerien Suzanne Gloria Lyall. Die Aufmerksamkeit der Fotografin wurde durch die unermüdliche Suche der Eltern geweckt, die 2001 in die Gründung einer Stfitung für vermisste Kinder mündete.
Von dieser Seite aus waren die Eltern des vermissten Mädchens, das heute eine etwa 38 Jahre alte Frau sein müsste, ganz offen für das Projekt, das von vornherein als Buchprojekt bei der erfolgreichen Kickstarter-Kampagne vorgestellt wurde.
Virginie Rebetez interessierte vor allem das Unsichtbare und die Bedeutung von Identität, die schon in den ersten Polizeiakten durchscheint und immer wieder auftaucht. Die Portraitbilder selbst zeigen nur Ansätze, nie ist Suzanne deutlich erkennbar. Nur das Poster, das auf der Basis damaliger Portraits entstanden ist, zeigt - in drei Varianten - deutlich ihr mögliches, heutige Abbild.
Das Cover zeigt eine Profilansicht von Suzanne, das sie selbst am Kopierer hergestellt hat.