Going home means traveling a long distance back to my family’s old farmhouse in a small village in northern Germany, a house that seems untouched by modern time, and, one day soon, will be left behind. I created “Stories from the Kitchen Table” to preserve and honor a fading way of life in thhis childhood home, a continent away.
When I visit, I absorb the ingredients of home: the flavors of dishes that are so familiar, and the same furnishings, photographs, knick-knacks, and worn kitchen tools that have been there since well before I was born. Most of all, the very essence of home for me is gathering around the kitchen table to sit down to a meal with family and friends and sharing stories old and new.
The hardship of farming and events during World War II cast a prickly shadow over family members that can still be felt today. Telling these tales gives me a chance for reflection and transformation. Memories and emotions intertwine into new stories.
In “Stories from the Kitchen Table,” my compositions include old family photos combined with what I see today when I return home. I use flowers and fragmented images of fabric: these dish towels, tablecloths, napkins, and decorative wall hangings (dating back to 1799) were passed down from generation to generation—a salute to the women who lived and worked under the roof of this old house. Pieces of an old traditional costume, buried for decades in an old farmer’s trunk, add a layer of local history to my images.
My grandmother was a great influence on me and others. She was the overseer and guide of a local farmhouse museum across the street; she was the keeper of local history and the keeper of family stories and tales that often were shared among women in “spin clubs.” In past times, “spin clubs” met with the purpose of spinning wool, doing needlework, and stitching tablecloths and wall hangings. These close-knit groups of women stayed together until death. Today, these clubs barely exist. Local history fades.
Editors’ Note: Reischwitz has several upcoming exhibitions around the US. Visit her personal website for more details. She has also started to work on a spin-off project that explores the old structures and environment in her village at night.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like these previous features: The North Fork, an intimate series that explores a remote valley in Colorado and its idiosyncratic inhabitants; All Lines and Diagonals, photo-based collages created from several decades’ worth of artistic scraps; and a video interview with Alain Laboile, a self-taught master of intimate family photography.