When Gosette Lubondo grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), photography was largely a man’s profession and the best a woman could do was to be a “Sunday photographer” – an amateur, in other words. Her father was a professional photographer, and she ocassionally worked with him, but she eventually began making her own photographs, and by the time she graduated from the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa, she had found her own voice.
From 1908 until 1960, the DRC was a Belgian colony. Belgium has the sad distinction of being an especially cruel and exploitive colonial power, and with her series Imaginary Trip I (2016), set in an abandoned railway car, and Imaginary Trip II (2019), set in a former Christian colonial village school, Lubondo brilliantly evokes both painful memories and contemporary reality. In the series, both of which were on view at the Fowler Museum of Art at UCLA this summer, Lubondo herself appears, along with present-day young men or individuals embodying students, teachers, and staff members at the school, sometimes in semi-transparent form, like ghosts, or memories. It is as if she encapsulates the passage of time by placing her contemporary subjects into colonial history.
Elisabeth Biondi was the long-time director of photography at the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Stern Magazine. She now curates photography exhibitions, teaches, writes about photography, and is one of the three founders of the Photography Master Retreat in the South of France. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org.