From July 1944 to April 1945, Lisa Garnier’s grandmother, Gisèle Chartraire was deported to the German concentration camp Ravensbrück. During the imprisonment she made a small notebook for writing down recipes told by her fellow prisoners – recipes exchanged in the heart of hell where hunger rubbed shoulders with the absurd and arbitrary.
What does the little notebook tell us about survival? Was it just about imaginary meals?
This work is published by Journal, 2021 released at Polycopies, Paris. It was done during Milk Photography Masterclass directed by SABRINA Biancuzzi and LJUBISA Danilovic.
My literary and photographic work tells the story of the quest for these tiny hopes, the expression of these ineffable bonds, of escape and anguish, the plunge into the various testimonies, those of my grandmother deported to Ravensbrück from July 1944 to April 1945, and those of many other survivors; but also the visit to the concentration camp ruins where, huddled at the bottom of my pocket, my grandmother’s recipe book returned to the place where it was made.
Because of its birth origin. How to track this book? Where is the beginning of the story? In 2004, I decided to interview my grandmother about her life during the 20th century. Born in 1918 in rural Burgundy, her life reflects that of many ordinary women in France. A very simple life. A simple life transformed by a vast story. As my grandfather was a much-wanted member of the French Resistance, my grandmother was arrested and deported to the concentration camp for women in Ravensbrück, in northeast of Germany, in July 1944. That’s where the recipe book was born. It’s an imaginary communion assortment and a collective piece of writing. With letting my grandmother speak about her life, I helped her release contained words of our family history. I asked, listened and recorded on magnetic tape. But then, I left it to one side, as if I forgot it, or pretended to forget. The tape was in a plastic box on my desk, waiting, with memories, her story. But was still a fragment, a track. In December 2015, seven years after my grandmother’s death, different ways had been leared from my route.
Invisible doors had been half opened, which let me discover new clues. I’m taking photos of flowers in an enigmatic way with their sepals, petals, explosion of colours and textures. I am those flowers. I am chasing the track of a flamboyant vegetal world. And the magnetic tape on the dusty shelf asks me: “What can the wild plants of Ravensbrück whisper to you? What do they have to tell?”
My grandmother told me: “I survived thanks to dandelions”. Collecting plants and taking photographs, that’s my own track. All the women’s stories included in the shared recipes and that my grandmother has noted down must stay alive. In our hands. In our kitchens. Recipes have no end.
La librairie Petite Égypte, 35 rue des Petits Carreaux 75002 Paris
• La Nouvelle Chambre Claire, 3 rue d’Arras, 75005 Paris, avec des exemplaires signés
• La Librairie Compagnie, 58 rue des écoles, 75006 Paris
• La librairie Tschann 125 Bd du Montparnasse 75006 Paris
• la Librairie Massena, 55, rue Gioffredo, 06000 Nice
• La librairie des lacs, 28bis, rue du Maréchal Foch, 78110 Le Vésinet