I have noticed themes that emerge in my work when I take the time to look back in my archives. I have been shooting daily for many years but only recently have I devoted the time to going back over my body of work to look for themes or repeated compositions. With time and distance I am able to bring fresh eyes to the work and see things I hadn’t seen before.
Writers often say that they don’t understand their own thoughts until they write them down. For visual artists like myself the same can be true of our photographs. I am compelled to take a certain image over and over again, but why?
One such composition that I found repeating itself in my work is of my boys resting, together or alone. I like these images because they are framed by negative space and show my children in an almost angelic repose. This in exactly the opposite of how I experience motherhood most of the time and I think that is why I run like a mad woman for my camera when the opportunity to capture it presents itself.
Sometimes they are in a sea of white sheets and other times one or both of them are illuminated amid a dark background.
But look carefully and you will see another element. In each peaceful image my boys are tethered to technology. They are lit by it, joined to it, snuggled together with it, or tied to it like an umbilical cord.
This was a surprising revelation for me. To be honest, I am still sorting out my feelings about it. As much as I try to control and limit their use of technology, there it is again and again in some of my favorite images. When I look at these I see classic, timeless portraits but for the added element of technology.
Even my husband gets in on the action.
Classic portraits with a modern twist? Maternal guilt writ large? Or a simple story of contemporary childhood? As I said, I am still sorting it out for myself. But had I not taken the time to look back on my archives I might never have identified this theme in my own work. I now have questions I can explore deeper and try to understand and I am excited by that.
Have you ever looked back at your work and found surprises? Are there compositions you return to again and again? If so, I’d love to hear about it.