Within oppositional theories addressing the complex relationship between photography and memory, George Eastman writes, “Photography enables the fortunate possessor to go back…to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”1Whereas Roland Barthes argues, “Not only is the photograph never, in essence, a memory…but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory.”2 My inclination to research and situate myself within this conflict, along with lingering memories from my past, has produced an affinity for photography as a medium that is rooted in the powerful but fictional role photographs have in constructing characters and events that are both real and unreal. Through the use of metaphor, theatricality and sequencing, I chart and map my experience to explore desire as well as the construction of identity and its relation to home, place and intimate relationships.
Swaddle is an ongoing rumination and retelling of my relationship to the South. The allure and danger of southern environments, the intensity of lower-class, male-dominated spaces, and the ramifications of being an outsider to family and local culture are intrinsic to my history and provide fruitful visual metaphors for recursive issues surrounding loss, neglect, sexuality and survival.
Swaddle explores that which thrives, and that which is overlooked in a southern setting. It incorporates both fact and fiction to address topics such as the culture of place and the relationship between identity and environment. Motivating this work are questions such as: What is nurtured? What is neglected? What is safe? What is dangerous? What is lost? What remains?
I am compelled to engage the space between presence and absence, fact and fiction, and memory and “anti-memory,” to remember, to forget, and to reclaim.
1. Batchen, Geoffrey. “Carnal Knowledge: Photography, Memory and Touch,” Objects the Trigger Memory Retrieval, Art Gallery of New South Wales, AU, 2000.
2. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, New York; Hill and Wang, 1981.
Naomi Shersty has been storytelling through words and pictures for as long as she can remember. Her projects take the form of photographs, drawings, zines, videos, installations and at times, a community feminist radio show (¡Broadcast! on Riverwest Radio, LP-FM).
Shersty's multimedia artwork has been exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues such as the New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe, NM), Newspace Center for Photography (Portland, OR) and Move Gallery (Tokyo, Japan). Her photographs have been included in numerous features and publications including Frontiers: Journal of Women Studies (University of Nebraska Press), Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice (Routledge), and Pelican Bomb: The Art of Contemporary New Orleans, (pelicanbomb.com).
Shersty received her BFA from The University of Florida, and her MFA from The University of New Mexico. Currently, she lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can see more of her work here.