One of my most startling early memories is of finding one of my father’s painstakingly composed family photographs pierced by my mother. She cut holes in them so as to completely obliterate her own face while not harming the image of my sister and myself beside her.

Even as a child, I was aware that this act was quite significant, but what it meant was beyond my ability to decipher. As an adult, I continue to be disturbed by these artifacts of my early childhood, which not only encompass the photographer’s hand but also the subject’s fingerprints.

Though her incisions have a violent undertone, as an image-maker, I am aesthetically drawn by the physical mark—its presence and its careful placement.

These marred artifacts have formed a reference point and inspiration for my new body of work, “Kitchen Gods,” but they do not limit the form my own work takes. I am fascinated by how the presence of a meditated mark alters and complicates the reading of an otherwise mundane family portrait.

Rooted in my fascination with my parents—both of whom died when I was young—my work deals with my personal need to decipher and address my family. Therefore, for me, these family photographs hold even more mythological weight. In my work, I labor to maintain the image of my parents and ancestors much in the way Indian housewives regard their kitchen deities.

Working directly with and on my family photographs, I build tableaux and memories—embedding marks and patterns in and on them. Like my mother, I alter the stories they tell. My choice of materials, methods, and approach are usually informed and driven by specific details within the photographs themselves. I gravitate towards materials that are humble, my preference being for things that are domestic and modest in nature, grounded in everyday use.

Re-contextualizing the familial qualities of these materials for my own artistic and creative purposes, my work embellishes my past and connects it to my present.

—Priya Kambli