My work looks at subjectivity and the built environment – the relationship between experience and place. I am drawn to subjects with layers of history, confusion and doubt.
For over eight years I photographed confessionals throughout the United States. I photographed in ornate city basilicas and airy rural chapels, modern churches with angled pews and cathedrals with leaking roofs and drafty stained glass windows. Despite the diversity of architecture there was a similarity to the confessionals. They were often worn down and less cared for than the churches themselves. Many were constructed with plywood, plastic and acoustic tile. I am interested in what this architecture reveals – the people and stories the confessionals have held and the way the spaces sometimes feel like the act of confessing. I photographed from the perspective of the penitent with a large format camera and available light, often using long exposures to reveal the dark spaces. I searched with my camera for what might be left behind.
Went out upon Circumference—
Beyond the Dip of Bell—
from poem 378
I photographed Emily Dickinson’s bedroom for over a year, focusing on the corner where she wrote and the windows on either side. I began the project shortly after moving from New York City to Dickinson’s hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts. Moving to the country from the city was like walking into a dark room after being in the bright sun; everything felt different but I couldn’t see well enough to articulate why. I wanted to better understand the way of seeing that my new home encouraged – one that was slower and subtler.
For this series I photographed parking garages in my hometown, San Mateo, California, digitally removing the parking lines and signs to create abstract spaces. My father is a civil engineer who designs parking garages. Garages are organized, purposeful environments; they assume that people obey rules and follow directions. By removing the parking lines, I undo my father’s work, creating purposeless places. I am interested in the way the structures, without their function, become unknown and even sinister. I wonder if it is possible to turn places with a singular purpose into images that invite speculation. With these pictures I investigate the relationship between environment and perception, the material and the ethereal, art and engineering
I made these images looking through the fence and foliage surrounding a cloistered convent. I frequently walked the convent perimeter with my large format camera, climbing through fields and overgrown forests, struggling to see what was in front of my lens. The pictures focus on what blocked my vision, not the convent itself. I wanted to see the barrier separating me from a world that was visible but inaccessible. This work hopefully evokes the difficulty of seeing -- the experience of grappling with a subject not easily revealed.
Throughout the project I was in conversation with the nuns and sent them images that I made. The title of this work comes from a passage by Simone Weil: “This world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through. Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.”