Between 2002 and 2005, van Manen traveled throughout Europe photographing other people's family photographs. The project and the resulting series, Give Me Your Image, arose from a commission from the Swiss ministry of foreign affairs to examine the experiences and lives of immigrants living in the suburbs of Paris. The artist photographed in immigrants’ homes, taking pictures of the photographs they had brought from their native countries. She then expanded the project to other European countries, including Lithuania, Greece, Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria, among others, where she photographed in the homes of locals and foreigners alike, all strangers to her.
The pictures record the lives of ordinary people and reflect a variety of political histories, cultures, and religions, sometimes within one household. Van Manen found the snapshots amid domestic clutter—hanging on walls, propped on untidy desks, taped to mirrors and windows. With permission she sometimes removed them from their original contexts and placed them on kitchen shelves, coffee tables, and chairs to create amusing, touching, and occasionally bizarre arrangements. The modern history of Europe provides the context for many of her photographs. In Munich, Germany a black-and-white portrait of a Nazi SS officer, most likely a relative of the family, is propped against delicate figurines and a decorative teapot and pitcher, highlighting the juxtaposition between the world evoked by the picture and the world the picture inhabits.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 220.