Sweet is the Swamp
Project info

For sixteen years when my children and I were together in our everyday lives I took pictures of them and their friends. I took pictures that I hoped were at once familiar and strange, provocative and reassuring. Originating from instinctual and intuitive responses I had watching my children as they discovered the world: the weight of a dead bird, the feel of mud, the color of a sunburn, the stickiness of chocolate milk on skin-- the pictures are rooted in the snapshot but imbued with a touch of the fictional and cinematic.

Led by my fascination with the lyricism and mythology of childhood I began taking these pictures quite sure of what I thought they would be about: the drama of being a child combined with my own observations and obsession with children and childhood; the pictures would be a critique on the ways in which adults romanticize and hijack memories of childhood with projections of what they wish it were like or wish it had been like. I wanted to make images that showed that childhood was complex and rich and beautiful and hard, to reject the soft focused myth of childhood innocence. But I found that photography, art making, my artmaking at least, doesn’t work that way. The photographs it turns out are like the children in them: something different from what I had planned.

The more this project has progressed the less sure I have been about what the work is about and the more difficult I have found it to talk about it. In that way the images parallel the experience of parenthood, although I don’t feel that they reflect it. Which is strange I think. I know I feel something intense when I look at these pictures. But it is something very different from what I feel looking at my family snapshots. I am left with a longing, not a maternal longing either, but something even deeper within me. This leads me to believe that these pictures aren't about my kids or their friends or my plans to subvert the iconography of childhood, but instead I'm left contemplating Dickinson’s enthralling gallop – a longing for the newness, the joy and the magic of childhood and a compelling desire to know the secrets that once we are past childhood we can only catch fleetingly, perhaps in dreams, and, if we are lucky, in photographs.

Sweet is the Swamp with its Secrets
Until we meet a Snake
‘Tis the we sigh for houses
And our departure take.

At that enthralling gallop
That only childhood knows.
A snake is a summer’s treason
And guile is where it goes.

Emily Dickinson