“I never see me. I see us.”

During this weekend of waiting, I read Just Kids by Patti Smith, about the story of her and Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s quite beautiful, and I was surprised to find myself crying at the end. I mean, I knew what was coming. Of course, it could just be late pregnancy hormones, and the fact that Patti was pregnant when Robert first got ill. At one point, he was photographing her for her next album, and she writes, “He was carrying death within him and I was carrying life. We were both aware of that, I know.”

The book is dizzying with all the encounters the two young artists had with famous artists, poets and rock stars in NYC, often in the Chelsea Hotel. What a crazy amazing time that must have been. But I think what most intrigued me about the story was how long it took both Smith and Mapplethorpe to find their voices. Or maybe it’s not about the amount of time, but about the fact that they didn’t embark on a clear plan of action. And seemingly chance encounters with individuals had huge impact on their journeys. It’s fascinating.

Smith has great insight into Mapplethorpe’s work and photography too. About the portrait Mapplethorpe shot for her first album, Horses, she writes, “When I look at it now, I never see me. I see us.” 10 years later, her husband remarked on the same thing: “I don’t know how he does it, but all his photographs of you look like him.”

For the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking that all photographers are voyeurs. But Smith has me thinking twice about that now:

“Robert was not a voyeur. He always said that he had to be authentically involved with the work that came out of his S&M pursuits, that he wasn’t taking pictures for the sake of sensationalism or making it his mission to help the S&M scene become more socially acceptable. He didn’t think it should be accepted, and he never felt that his underground world was for everybody. [...]

“And yet when I look at Robert’s work, his subjects are not saying, Sorry, I have my cock hanging out. He’s not sorry and doesn’t want anybody else to be. He wanted his subjects to be pleased with his photographs, whether it was an S&M guy shoving nails in his dick or a glamorous socialite. He wanted all his subjects to feel confident about their exchange.

“He didn’t think the work was for everybody. When he first exhibited his most hard-core photographs, they were in a portfolio marked X, in a glass case, for people over eighteen. He didn’t feel that it was important to shove those pictures in people’s faces, except mine, if he was teasing me.”


So this whole, could give birth at any time thing is a bit of a head trip. My due date is Saturday, but technically the baby could have come any time in the last two and a half weeks or the next two and a half weeks. I’m pretty comfortable, but tired, so my days are more boring and way less productive than I’d planned for. When I was this pregnant with my son, I was going for walks and baking (and eating) cookies and cooking and freezing dinners. So far I’ve done pretty much none of that. Oh well.

Here are the last few pictures I made for my derby girls project. I hope to pick it back up again in a few months. In the meantime, I’ll turn my thinking to editing and how to integrate the other elements I’ve been collecting along the way (interiors, objects, notes and documents from the women).

You may remember Dodge Swinger from when I first started publishing pictures from this series. (You can actually see my first print of her up her shelf, framed.) Anyways, she had a baby since then, as you can see. I was supposed to photograph her when she was heavily pregnant in February, but Ada decided to come 10 weeks early at the end of January, so I lost my chance.


Now for a little self-promotion… I mentioned ages and ages ago that my work was going to be included in a book called The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art. It was scheduled to be available last fall, but production has been delayed. I understand it’s finally printing now, so if you’re interested in feminist art, you should order it now. I’m so delighted to have my work included in it.

Also, Foam Magazine just produced A Book of Beds, which is for sale online. It includes two of my images from Where will I spend my happy days?

Contact 2011

For the last few years, Mother’s Day for me has become pretty much synonymous with the Contact Festival. Even though I’m hugely pregnant and, in theory, could go into labour at any moment, this year was no exception. I was originally planning to see Somewhere to Disappear, the film that followed Alec Soth while he worked on Broken Manual, on Saturday afternoon, but I didn’t buy advance tickets soon enough. We were even going to wait in line for the possibility of rush tickets, but on Thursday I had a bad fall, so I was feeling a little too broken and rundown to stand in line for an hour plus in the hopes of getting a seat.

(Look: I even got a black eye. Luckily it’s not so visible when my eyes are open and with my glasses on, or I’m sure my husband would have gotten some dirty looks.)

Anyways, we just went to a few exhibitions. I’d pored over the contact site to decide which exhibitions I most wanted to see: Viviane Sassen’s work in the primary exhibition at MOCCA and Guy Tillim’s Avenue Patrice Lumumba.

First, Viviane Sassen’s work. LOVED it. L-O-V-E-D it. I don’t quite understand it, but I love looking at it, and I think that’s part of its appeal, that these images are enigmas. I love work that goes beyond the colonialist cliches of Africa. The work is shown as part of a group show, and I liked some of the other work but not all. Sassen’s work was by far the standout for me.






I will say, however, that I was kind of distracted by the presentation. The images were mounted but not framed, and they were in different sizes AND hung at different heights. I’m sure there was a reason for that, but I just didn’t understand it, and I found myself wondering about that instead of wondering about the images. It looks like her book, Flamboya, uses an analogous technique with little images tucked into half pages, as you can see in this video of flipping the book. I’m beginning to think I’m developing a special taste for out of print photobooks. I would love to buy Flamboya, but it’s no longer available. The work at Contact is newer work than the book but it appears to be along the same vein.

And now, South African photographer Guy Tillim. I have to say, this solo exhibition showed a lot more pieces than I expected. There must have been 40 pieces in the show, maybe even more. And they’re pretty big pieces. Most importantly, they are beautiful.

The only downside of the show is that admission cost $10. If I’d known that in advance, I probably wouldn’t have gone but since we only discovered it when we were already there, we paid. It seems very odd to me to charge admission for an art show. Anyways, I’m glad I went, even if my bank account is smaller as a result. These were my two favourite images from the show:



The show is put on by Wedge Curatorial Projects, which focuses on African and diasporic artists. On May 17, Kenneth Montague, the curator, will be leading a tour of the exhibition and they will be screening a film about Lumumba’s rise to power. If you’re around, you should totally check it out. The show is on until June 14.