Since its inception, photography has held the power to transfigure the everyday into something of note, something to dwell and reflect on. The camera can find weight in the most ordinary of spaces and make light of the deadest hours of the day. And these kinds of photographs can tell just as much as an image of a newsworthy event. In the midst of the manic pace of our hyper-mediated modern lives, photographs can also make us slow down and take stock. The pictures in Barbara Peacock’s American Bedroom do just that. An ongoing longterm project, the photographer has been journeying through the vast expanses of the US taking portraits of people in their bedrooms.
A place to retreat from the demands of the outside world, the bedroom is perhaps the closest we get to a truly private space: a container for the objects we hold dear, a space where we start and end the day, and in some cases, spend the hours in-between. It is the place where our experiences are distilled, and consequently, it is difficult to enter as a stranger. The degree of intimacy that Peacock manages to to strike up with the people she has photographed—who range from friends to complete strangers met during her journeys through social media or on the street—is therefore something special, infusing her photographs with sensitivity.
The project reflects on our current historical moment, entering the lives of a broad range of the public to show the many different living conditions and ways of life that make up the American experience. “My interest lies in the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects. I am passionate, but not sentimental about America,” she explains. But amongst these different lives, commonalities emerge: childhood imagination, the freedom of youth—and that of old age—the bond of partnership, the joys of family life, loneliness, wanderlust, faith.
Through the strange act of the photographic encounter, the most ordinary moment of hanging out in one’s bedroom is memorialized and elevated into something of great importance. “I am drawn to the quiet magisterial beauty of people half lost in memory, with too much time on their hands, or in silent paradox,” says Peacock. “I argue and persuade that these subjects matter.”