Tierney Gearon is a fine art photographer who I want to feature as my 3rd “March Mother”.  Her project, appropriately titled “The Mother Project”, contains portraits of her mother, herself and her children.  A show of this work at the Saatchi Gallery in London raised a large controversary – the London Police accused the artist of pornography and required the images to be taken down!  That said, I find the images to be provocative and disturbing but in a revelatory way.

From the book forward:

“When I first saw the images …. I wanted to ask Tierney Gearon for every detail of this woman, her mother, who seemed to display so many faces — dejected, exuberant, brave, lonely, or flamboyant ones — in a matter of moments. Tierney explained, though, that her journey behind the lens was more relevant to the work than the details of her mother’s illness.

“My mother had no boundaries,” she said in speaking of her childhood with her father and three younger brothers in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a hierarchy that threw her into a maternal role early on.

Now the mother of four children — Emilee, Michael, Walker, and Grace — Tierney wanted to resurrect parts of her own past, and in doing so she was able to discover her own growth process.

With her kids in tow, she chronicled visits to her mom in upstate New York, shooting spontaneously as events occurred, walking in fields, peering or placing herself in quotidian bedroom or bathroom scenes. As she went along, sometimes she would add an element to see what might take place — asking her mom to put on a mask for example — then shoot.

“When I started documenting times with my mother, it felt good to be able to express what I was feeling inside and translate it. I do not have the need to take photos twenty four hours a day. I select moments to switch into ‘camera mode.’ And when I look back on a lot of these images, I feel most of them are self-portraits of my soul. Being around my mother is such a painful and happy experience. I tried to take the best of my mom and apply it to the way I look at life. These are not photos of a woman who is ill, but of a relationship between a mother and a daughter — two artists. This work is how I transfer my feeling into art to process pain and frustration. The last time I visited my mother, I remember her standing next to Walker, and I decided to give Walker the baby to see what would occur. And then I saw him holding Grace, shielding her as though he was guarding her from my mother. It’s interesting — I had no idea that he was going to do that. Then when I looked at the shot, I thought, isn’t that weird? When I gave birth to Walker, it marked the time in my life when I learned about my own boundaries — how to protect myself. I love my mother. I wanted to fix her. It was hard to be able to let go of that, because my mother is like one of my children. I wanted her to be okay. At the same time, I wanted her to take care of me. But I realized that would never happen. So I learned to take care of myself.”

Through these images and in this book, Tierney grew up all over again. But this time, through her lens, she could comprehend her own evolution, testing emotions and the vicissitudes of human relationships along the way. Still, she remains unfazed. Everyone, she told me, has wounds from the past. And the particulars of dealing with her mother’s mental illness take away from the motive behind this collection:

“The beautiful thing about my mother is that she has this spark for life. She will see a black-eyed Susan in a field of weeds, and she’ll ask me to bring it home with me. That is what she will notice. In all this rubble of grass in her front yard, she finds this one little flower. I want to celebrate that.””

– Susan M. Kirshbaum

In addition to the photographs, a documentary has been made on this project which you can find here.  To view more work, I recommend looking at the artist’s website.

I think baby Eames’s parents will forever remember that he was born during a very.. let’s say memorable.. winter.  February, 2015.  The worst month of the worst winter of Boston’s history!  I got to head over to this adorable family’s home in Brookline on a snowy (duh) day to capture them engaging in some indoor, and outdoor, play.  I really wanted to capture not only itty-bitty Eames, but the personalities of older siblings Tae and Zinn as they danced on their parents bed.  Also, these kids are avid readers so I wanted to make sure I got some photos of them amongst their books.

I think these images are intimate, cozy, and dynamic.  After the client viewing, Dad gave me the best compliment I have ever received – “I think [the photos] are museum-y].”  Perfection!  I hope these images will not only be cherished, but remain intriguing and really bring back specific memories for years to come.

Two weeks ago I participated in Amherst College’s first female athlete career student-alumni event.  At it, we divided up into four panels :  finance and business, medicine, law and social practices, and education and the arts.  I was on the last panel, education and the arts, with about 12 other talented alumni.   Most are involved in education as teachers, administrators, and researchers at all different levels (elementary, high school, college, graduate, private, public, etc..).  It also included Neely, a fellow tennis alumni, who is now a top Boston-based life coach and counselor, and Liv, a classmate who is Producing Artistic Director of Bridge Rep and teaches at MIT.  All in all, a very impressive group – something I would expect given the talent that Amherst tends to cull.

Arts and Education Panel; current tennis team girls with alum Neely and me

 

While I was saddened that no students who attended were interested in pursing a path in the arts (where are you!?), this event still impacted me greatly.   I was able to reflect on my own career path – the goals, explorations, failures, realizations, and ongoing dreams I still have.  Here’s the quick story of my life in the past decade:

When I left Amherst I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to do:  I wanted to become a practicing fine art photographer who also taught higher education.  To get there, I knew I needed an MFA.  To get into an MFA program I knew I needed to spend a few post-grad years in the real world and develop a strong portfolio.  I was able to find a job at an esteemed Boston gallery and took a continuing education at NESOP to keep me focused on creating photographs.  I then got into SMFA’s post-baccalaureate program and continued on to SVA’s MFA program.  I LOVED graduate school and reveled in the support that small critique classes give.  I met so many talented photographers – both professors and students.  They pushed me to photograph the things I cared about – my loved ones. They also pushed me to photograph what they found interesting – my privileged upbringing.  I decided to make my thesis about both – I honed in on the ambivalent feelings I held in regards to such an upbringing and the world my family inhabits.

Me as guest lecturer at Clark University and various Libert & Company installation shots

 

I was inspired, but also afraid.  I realized how much competition there is out there.  I also learned that putting personal work out there can be tricky – not only are you allowing others to critique your loved ones, but your own perception may be questioned.  It gets confusing.  I felt like I was in constant self and artist group therapy.  While I was fairly aggressive in submitting my work to contests and group shows (and receiving attention for it), I became frustrated.  I lost confidence in my objectivity, and I started to despise my project (although I still have such fondness for the actual imagery).  In addition, I was losing tons of money on supplies, applications, travel, everything (it is really expensive to be an artist!!).  My applications for the few teaching positions in the geographical area I was in weren’t accepted.  Dan proposed and I focused on wedding planning.  I played a lot of tennis (and kept hurting my back).

Along the way, my best friend Lindsey had me photograph her babies and sister’s wedding.  Lindsey had always helped me always find side-photography projects including having me do her senior photos while we were in high school, engagement photos in 2009 (?), and even creating custom photographs for the walls of the private equity firm she temped at in NYC.  She always told me how beautiful my images of my family were, how talented and smart I was, and that she thought people would pay to have me make similar images of their loved ones.  I had always considered doing these types of jobs for side money and to help out friends, but never took it seriously.  That attitude changed.

362 Huron Ave Interior before and after, me outside after signing lease

I started to envision a business model where I not only took traditional portraits, but ones with more truth.  I decided I could put out some feelers to prior classmates and friends who had kids.  I started to build a portfolio.  I made a website.  Strangers started hiring me!  I took more photos and built a bigger portfolio.  I decided to create a real business plan, ask for a business investment from my parents, invested in lots of samples and rented a studio space in my beloved Cambridge neighborhood of Huron Village.  Business took off.  I just completed my second year in this space, third year in business, and can’t believe not only how far I have come, but how happy I am.  I love making the images I do for clients!  I am fascinated in observing their personality and family dynamics.  I like learning from them how to navigate life.  I like hearing peoples stories.  I enjoy seeing their gratitude, and feel confident they will continue to cherish the work I made.  These photographs aren’t those that will be questioned and I like that.

That said, there is still a part of me who feels like I failed.  That I gave up/”sold out”.  When those voices start to come up, I try to remind myself that I feel better about life on a day-to-day basis.  But I also try to remind myself that I shouldn’t drop those goals.  I still want to create personal bodies of work.  Though I currently have trouble finding the energy for these projects, I know that at some point the drive will return and I will start one.  And once that happens I can decide if and how I want to bring it to the attention of the art world (I will go back to PhotoLucida!).  Also, I will apply for teaching jobs.  Perhaps it will be just for a community continuing education class.  Perhaps I will continue to mentor like I am doing now for a middle-schooler, which I love doing.  Maybe it will be more private lessons.  I definitely plan to continue to use this blog to educate clients and supporters by featuring intriguing artists and culture in Fine Art Fridays.  Oh, and maybe I will start to pick up the tennis racquet again for some dubs (or to teach Calvin).

To close, I want to bring up one more recent revelation.  About a month ago I attended Inspire, a commercial photography conference in Maine.  While there I received the same assignment in multiple workshops:  think of three words to define your vision, your brand, your company, and your images.  I have struggled over these three words but I recently came to them, and I think in relation to my past, present, and future they make a lot of sense.  They are :  EXPRESSIVE | RICH | INTELLIGENT .  I am going to talk about these words mostly as they relate to my photographs.  “Expressive” because I want my images to be honest and open, with emotion evident.  I want them to portray the individual and group personalities of my clients.  “Intelligent” because I want the images to be smart – to refer to established artists, tropes, genres, stories.  I want them to be informed.  At times, I welcome witticism.  “Rich”.  Ah – the tough one!  On one hand I love that this is a play on my thesis.  I like luxury (and I want my clients to experience luxurious images and products to present these images).  I think “rich” is common vernacular in today’s culture to describe something as great, cool, desired, beautiful, etc.  On the other hand, I also like that “rich” can be used to describe the quality of an image.  Layered, complex, and visually delicious.  “Rich” in color, “rich” in meaning.  You get the idea…

Well this has been quite the ramble.  But after the career event a couple weeks ago, I set the goal to write my thoughts down on this blog, and so I did!  I guess I am a goal-oriented person.  And I am pretty proud of where I have gotten, even if it’s not what I originally envisioned (which, by the way, was a current theme among alums telling students what to expect..).  Life is a journey.  Keep your eyes open, stay aware and positive, be grateful for what you are given, and be proud of your accomplishments.

I met Heather Evans Smith 2 years ago at a Flash Powder Photography retreat in New Mexico.  She was quirky, smart, and extremely creative.  I feel in love with her surreal portraiture immediately.  It is lush, layered, and touching.  At the time she was working on a project titled “The Heart and the Heavy” in which she explored the challenging and bittersweet transition into motherhood.

Her latest project, Seen Not Heard, focuses on the complex relationship between herself and her daughter.  As she writes:

For the past few years I have been creating images to express the emotions of motherhood. My daughter has never been included in those images. But as she has grown from a baby into a force of nature all her own, I was drawn to pull her into my world of conceptual photography and explore our relationship during a time when emotions of love, stress and confusion are high.

Seen Not Heard takes its title from the Old English adage “To Be Seen and Not Heard”, a term often thrown about in reference to the desired behavior of children. These images are silent, but they create a voluble visual narrative on the relationship between parent and child. They explore the cycles that are passed down through generations and the tension between keeping to what is known and forging a newer, and perhaps stronger, path. As strong as the close, forever bond between mother and daughter is, there also exists a distance inherent between two different individuals.”

I’m pretty sure you are all going to be blown away by these images – conceptual, fine art photography at it’s best.  Heather is represented by the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta, GA.

 

I am SO late in posting these photographs but am excited to do so. Remember this adorable couple’s engagement photos (and the sneak peek I did back at a more appropriate date?).  Well, here are a bunch more from Elizabeth and Stephen’s wedding day back in June 2014.  Even though I consider early June to be springtime here in Boston, that day was pretty hot out in the pretty suburb and hometown of Elizabeth, Milton.  I LOVED Elizabeth’s Monique Lhullier lace and tulle gown (I have just a slight bias for the designer…), and was touched by how gorgeous she looked in this dress (remember, I knew “Elizabeth H” back when we wore uniforms at Southfield…).  Quite a transformation (we’ve grown up!).

Anyway, my own sentimentality aside, this wedding was a CRAZY fun time – with lots of Nobles and Williams graduates as attendees who knew how to get down on the dance floor (and rock the corn hole).  The Milton Hoosic Club was a beautiful, vintage-y club place filled with antiques and old New England charm.  E and S decided to have yummy pies instead of cake which were devoured instantaneously.  The night included lots of laughs and tears.. and a little bit of sweat on all the dancers by the end of the evening.  Even I was shaking my hips on the stage as I clicked the shutter… : )