Artist's Statement

Cody Bratt

My dad is a photoengraver. My grandfather gave me his Hasselblad when I started photographing. My great-grandfather photographed our family and labor movements extensively. So, when I published my first monograph, it felt like inheritance fulfilled.

But what else does one inherit? Is it only the positive, the good stuff - stories worth repeating? Down the same lineage, I inherited my great-grandfather’s photographic archive, 2000 negatives ranging from ~1900 to ~1960. Half of the archive is sequenced and documented; the “approved” story. He was working on a book when he passed in 1984. The other half was left almost maligned; randomly tossed into vintage containers -- no discernable narrative.

George Bratt, my great-grandfather, was a self-described poet and labor champion. Growing up apart from the bulk of the family, I heard both these stories and the ones which were not often told. My family grapples with a lineage of abuse, addiction, and neglect which converge at my great-grandfather. As I began to restore the archive, I wondered whether these other stories were visible from the narratives which emerged from the photographs and, if they are, what they might mean to me. Had I also inherited this darkness? What responsibility, do I have to bear witness to this?

With this series, I’m exploring these questions. I’m leveraging mixed media practices on top of the photographs made by my great-grandfather. Utilizing tears, tape, glue and other techniques to combine and remix the photographs with ephemera from the archive itself, I’m attempting to conjure the untold events which I was not direct witness to but that may have directly or indirectly affected my life. It’s as if I’m piecing together multi-generational memories that I can’t quite recall. Each piece is unique/various size. My goal isn’t to tell the specific stories themselves -- the stories are not mine to tell -- but to open a conversation about the good and bad in families and what our individual truths as descendants may be.