Listening for Lazarus recreates the journals and work of a woman living during the middle of the last century. She occupies the shadowy interstice between two historical figures – Frederick Scott Archer and Doctor Hugh Welch Diamond. (Frederick Scott Archer is the English sculptor credited with discovering the use of a collodian, a medical preparation used to seal wounds, as a photographic emulsion. He spent some time confined for an illness and during this period met Dr. Diamond whom he taught photographic techniques. This collaboration later led to the production of a collection of photographs of the woman inmates at the Springfield Asylum in Surrey, England. The Doctor “installed a photographic lab in the hospital as early as 1851 and built an archive of hundreds of portraits of female patients” – Michel Frizot, A New History of Photography. )
Madam Archer was married to Frederick and due to unfortunate circumstances, spent a period of time in the institution some years after the meeting of her husband and the physician. She is among the female faces of madness recorded by Diamond. Madame archer existed only in relation to her husband and the Doctor and was essentially invisible, as a woman of ordinary means and low status certainly would have been. However, because of her associations, capabilities, and the unique circumstances, she was given darkroom privileges and a supply of materials with which to create her own photographic archive. These images, like this story, emerge somewhere along the vague boundary between history and fantasy.
Rebecca Silberman, a resident of Gordonsville, Virginia, has taught in this state at James Madison University and the University of Virginia. She has lectured widely throughout the US and was a visiting artist at Manhattansville College, Purchase New York. She has had exhibitions at the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington, DC; SOHO Photo Gallery in NYC; and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1999 she was a finalist for an individual artist fellowship through the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and has taken workshops at the Center for Photography and the School of Visual Arts.