I’m Posting My Final Photography Project… Introduction First :)

Rooted in nostalgic origin, I have created a series of photographic portraits of my daughter Lennon in order to permanently and visually establish the maternal bond between my daughter and me.  Lennon was born six weeks premature and came home from the hospital, after spending a week in the NICU, wearing a heart and breathing monitor.  Her premature birth, combined with the need for her to wear a monitor, constructed an alienated bond between us as every day became filled with anxiety and uncertainty.  At four months old, she could finally function without wearing a restraining belt wrapped around her chest and the bond between us eventually grew stronger.  Through this photography project, I have found myself obsessively constructing compositions of her as if to reaffirm our relationship and pronounce her existence as a thriving, healthy baby girl.  Elizabeth Bronfen claims:

The emergence of photographic images, once these are referred back to a maternal gaze, always contains a moment of fragile corporeality… The reality of the body photographed recedes for emotional and intellectual grasp.  It is a lost object.  Claiming the maternal gaze to be the most poignant point of departure for the emergence of images brings another aspect into play: the birth of the child’s narcissistic enjoyment is intimately tied to this gaze.[1]

This photography project directly affirms Bronfen’s suggestions of the maternal gaze because the photographic medium allows me to transfix intimate moments of time into visual documentation and has, therefore, permeated a sense of myself into each photograph.

Roland Barthes, in Camera Lucida, discusses photography as an art form by describing his personal experience of viewing particular photographs.  Using Barthes as a prompt and guide, I have created a series of portraits of Lennon that emulate certain photographers’ styles to which I have been particularly drawn.  Barthes defines his interest in certain photographs over others by a force, which he calls the punctum: “This second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole—and also a cast of the dice.  A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).[2]  Glancing through lectures and readings from this course, I permitted the punctum to guide my preference for selecting the photographers I intended to emulate.  As an amateur photographer using a simple point and shoot digital camera, I created a body of work where I placed Lennon either in certain situations or in certain attire surrounded by props and allowed the punctum to guide my shutter button and formulate a frame for my compositions.  While viewing the digital screen on the back of my camera, I framed portrait compositions of her as I watched her interact within the environments I fabricated.  I photographed moments of contemplation, and moments where Lennon directly connected with the camera, in order to demonstrate the various means by which photographic portraits of Lennon could be read.  Inspired by Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, Julia Margaret Cameron, Catherine Opie and surrealist photographers Man Ray and Umbo, these photographs present Lennon in various compositions dealing with issues of gender, identity and consumerism.

[1] Elizabeth Bronfen, “Women Seeing Women Seeing Women: Portraying Women—A Genealogy of the Feminine Gaze,” Women Seeing Women: A Pictorial History of Women’s Photography from Julia Margaret Cameron to Annie Leibovitz (Munich: Haus Publishing, 2002), 9.

[2]Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., 1980): 27.

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