/18 Family

Martha Fleming-Ives


The photographs of my mother depict her daily rituals, work, and private relationships along with moments of great vulnerability and desire that I am privy to and invited by her to record. These pictures portray my mother’s willingness to reveal herself to me with regards to her aging, sexuality, and instances of physical and emotional frailty. As such, these representations disrupt conventional understandings of mother-daughter relationships, wherein the mother may assume a role of authority or purity. In this project I use the camera as a pretext to push certain boundaries that separate a mother from her daughter, and to subsequently re-negotiate and redefine maternal intimacy. In an interview in Artforum, Kaja Silverman states that, “A photograph isn’t a representation or even an index. It is, rather, a special kind of analogy-the kind that our culture most needs. A photograph and its ‘referent’ have so many affinities that we are unable to separate them from each other, but also enough differences to keep us from conflating them.” Considering Silverman’s notion of photography as analogy, the relationship of the photograph to its “referent” is not unlike the relationship of a daughter to her mother. A daughter is permanently attached to her mother. Just like a photograph that can never escape its referent, a daughter never escapes understanding her mother as her present or future self.