Try to remember a positive or negative moment from your childhood. Think of how many variations of the same story you have told to different people over the years. And recall how much you have forgotten. False memories, when explained in medical terms, are a result of a troubled past. In those cases, a false memory is the reenactment of a trauma…But in my work the false memory is a sort of unspoken memory. It doesn’t matter whether it is “real” but rather that it could have happened or appeared in the last seconds of our strange dreams…

Vanja Bucan’s work is idiosyncratic, unusual—and deeply memorable. Last year, a single image from her series “Camouflage” was chosen as a 1st place winner in the LensCulture Exposure Awards. Ambiguous in meaning, the image was packed with visual richness, asking us to linger and return, letting us question and wonder what exactly we were witnessing.

In her follow-up series, “Anatomy of False Memories,” Bucan is working on similar grounds, examining the ways in which reality is non-linear and rooted in our individual (and collective) interpretations.

As Bucan told us over email, physical tension lies at the heart of her latest work. In her words, “I was seeing tension everywhere: on people’s faces, bodies, in the (dis)communication in the public space. It was in the way people move on the streets—through the many gazes and poses of loneliness.”

“It’s hard to explain, but I think I have declared a war on beauty & norm(al). I prefer tension to beauty.”

While photography has long been associated with memory, it is Bucan’s transformative touch with the lens that turns straightforward documentary work into a space for exploration and play. Her photographs are exceedingly open to interpretation and to each viewers’ differing sensibilities and experiences. As she said, “our memories are not a computer language: they fade and change their details and nuances over time. They are like transmitters of oral history, sculpted according to whom we are relating.”

The work is still ongoing, though Bucan can feel it heading towards some kind of completion (if not a definitive one). In her mind, all she has left to do is “add a few more characters to this surreal storyline” and the rest will fall into place. Like an intriguing, recurring dream, we look forward to its conclusion.

—LensCulture

Editors’ note: In conjunction with the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2017 (accepting submissions until December 20, 2016), we are highlighting work from our previous winners and finalists. Don’t miss your chance to enter into this year’s competition!