This work explores the materiality of the photographic image and how we relate to it, as a surface in which memory is symbolically contained. The term “vaporize” is taken from the novel 1984 by George Orwell in which people are eliminated from all historical records by means of vaporization and thus turned into “unpersons”.

In order to achieve the vaporization of individuals depicted in photographs, we placed two self-portraits outdoors for weathering over a period of thirty days. The images underwent several changes due to the climatic conditions to which they were exposed such as hail, rain, sunlight, wind, pollution, and radiation.

These climatic conditions in turn left physical marks on the surfaces such as variations in tone, ink wear, stains, burns, erasures, and changes in texture. On one hand, these marks represent the physical effects the environment has on our bodies. But most importantly, the subjects in the modified pictures can be said to have been turned into unpersons by means of vaporization, and the new images are now a symbol of the erasure or fading away of the memory previously contained within.

self-portraits by Andrea Tejeda and Susana Moyaho


This project is an archive of oblivion. We made an open call inviting people to donate photographs to us in which they had erased someone from the image, either as a means to forget them, or to forget a moment in their past. This process is called vaporization and once someone is vaporized they become an Unperson, a term created by George Orwell in his novel 1984. We focus on exploring the value of the photograph as a medium in which attempts to inflict oblivion are perpetrated and how the blank spaces, burn marks, cut out faces, or scratched off ink take the place of someone. These spaces imply the presence of the ones who went from apotheosis to damnatio memoriae. Once the participants donate the image to us, we take on the role of perpetrators, channeling the desire to forget someone by defacing the photograph that contains their image, thus allowing that individual to assert some kind of control over the subject in the photograph.
Subsequently we become archivists and curators. cataloguing the photographs, and deciding on their place in the archive. Additionally they now have the potential to be re-contextualised to become part of a new form of exhibition. These new material forms create a different experience to that originally intended by the participant, so that by making them public they also give up their control over them. By doing this we make visible the attempts to achieve oblivion, questioning the idea of the photograph as a private possession.

The Unperson Project is created by artists Susana Moyaho and Andrea Tejeda K.