Throughout its history, photography has been readily understood as a medium for capturing what one sees, but I use the camera to create what I cannot see.
I have based my work about Sylvia on certainties I have learned about her life. But her reality is long gone. What has replaced it is my fantasy, a visual biography of her life as I envision it.
My photographs become an imaginary time machine. Their beauty, to me, lies in the fact that they are born in a space I have come to know as No-When.
No-When takes place in the 19th century and the present, but No-When also does not take place in the 19th century and the present. No-When never exists.
Viewed together, these two photographs confuse time, disordering past and present.
Sylvia and William
Before I knew what Sylvia looked like, I visited an archive in Rhode Island that held the papers of Sylvia’s sister Elizabeth Mitchelson Colt. Sensing she and her sister were not close (they were born 17 years apart), it did not surprise me when I could not find any correspondence between them. However, as I looked through the boxes of photographs, I uncovered this photograph, unlabeled, and it stopped my breath. I knew in my heart it was Sylvia and her son, William.
October 11, 1866
On October 8, 1866, Sylvia’s mother, Susan Amelia Bullock, died of consumption at the family home on State Street, in Bristol, Rhode Island. Three days later, Sylvia writes in her journal: “My darling mother was carried out of the house for the last time. We put flowers that she loved so dearly around her and laid her in the grave where she is with the Lord.”
One hundred and fifty years after Susan’s death, I stare out of the picture window of this very house. I sit where I believe Sylvia sat and watched as her mother’s body was carried from the house. The dress I wear was recreated from one in a mid-19th century photograph of Sylvia.
Sylvia: A 19th Century Life Unveiled
..Sylvia as Muse..