Caught Between Two Worlds

In this ongoing project the photographic space becomes the arena to explore and deconstruct the experience of being caught between two worlds of family secrets, where hidden families, sexuality and mental health issues have been silenced, consciously and unconsciously through time. Drawing from photograph albums belonging to my grandfather when he was logging teak in Thailand between 1896-1914, I have created reconstructed and re-imagined spaces to encounter unexplained and secret lives that only came to light by a chance meeting some half a century later.

The images created for Caught Between Two Worlds were made between 2017 and 2019 in London England.

They were made with digital scans from photographs in my family’s archive and scans of images of myself that were then combined digitally.

They were published as part of PIX’s ‘Personal Paradigms’ an issue focusing on Southeast Asian photography in 2020. This was a collection of bodies of works by different photographers exploring domestic photography, personal history and family archives.

Part of an article written in response to the collection by Joshua Muyiwa:

“As a Black, Femme, Queer, Afro-Indian, I’m particularly excited by the gaps that allow me to see my own trajectories even if I’m not physically present in those photos. And it is this openness and invitation that drew me into Sarah Ainslie’s Caught Between Two Worlds that literally pieces, pushes and pulls apart photographs to tell stories outside of their frames (and also within them). In their new avatar, they seem more honest to their origin: divulging family’s secrets around sexuality, dual, distant families and the dissonance of mental illness. And even if one didn’t know this, we’re left asking: there must be a reason for togetherness to be shown as (a)part?

What do family photo albums count for? What do they reveal about us? What can they tell of the ways we have always related to one another? What of the ways we have wanted to relate to each other?

So, the questions that still linger for me: Who gets to make these photographs? Who gets to be in these photographs? Who gets to have these deeply-buried family albums that can topple truths?”

Joshua Muyiwa is a Bengaluru-based poet and writer