Today we share an on-going series, still without a title, by 23 year-old American photographer Kaitlin Maxwell. Kaitlin introduces it as “an exploration of identity, femininity, intimacy, and sexuality through the dynamics that exist within my relationship with my grandmother and mother, as well as myself. The female presence is something that has always weighed heavily in my life. I lost my father at a young age, and was predominantly raised by women throughout the most influential years of my adolescence. It was not until I entered my 20s that I became aware of just how impactful this was, and continues to be, on me. As I began to enter womanhood, and started taking photographs of the three of us, a catalyst occurred and I found myself confronted with the question of whether or not I was capable of measuring up to the women who preceded me, and found myself completely lost. In order to gain clarification and try to make sense of these feelings, I felt compelled to dissect it with my camera.”
“When I first began photographing my grandmother and mother,” Kaitlin continues, “there was so much I wanted to convey, that I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. I knew I wanted the world to see the two of them the way I do, and I knew I wanted to capture the unique way in which they exude their sexuality and femininity, as a way for me to try and comprehend it. I also wanted to allow the outside world to be a part of this personal navigation of my own identity through these two women, and convey the effect that this has had on me. Throughout the exploration of these maternal relationships, I have opened up many doors to myself that have left me in a state of confusion. In trying to understand more about myself through my mother and grandmother, I began later in the series attempting to embody the aspects of them I have always admired, and felt I lacked within myself. As an attempt to embrace my own sexuality with the same confidence I have witnessed in my grandmother my entire life, I started making self-portraits wearing the clothes of hers I have acquired over the years. I wanted to be myself as my grandmother, in order to see if this allowed me to bear the same self-assurance I have always admired in her.”
Working on this project is helping Kaitlin realize things about her grandmother and mother and herself. “In using my camera as a magnifying glass over the two of them, I found myself watching their every move and discovering those moments that were most telling of who they truly are. I was able to lift the veil and uncover deeper parts of them I wasn’t aware of. This work has allowed me to break down walls that I didn’t even know existed. I have been able to enter into a side of vulnerability in these women, and myself, that I was unable to access before. This has been the most interesting and exciting aspect about this process for me. I feel there’s nothing more beautiful than making work about something you believe to be so certain of, but then allowing the unknown to enter into the work.”
Ideally, Kaitlin hopes viewers “can attain a personal connection with my work. I want them to feel included and a part of this journey of self-exploration, because it’s a universal one. Coming into yourself and trying to understand who you are is such a difficult, confusing, and strange part of life. I want the viewer to feel connected to these familial relationships and myself, as well as the issues I’m navigating through. I always think back to the photographs that have impacted my life and my work greatly, and they are images that are humanizing and, once again, timeless. Photographs that show you the reality of human connection, aging, insecurity, loss of innocence, tension, and uncertainty.”
Kaitlin’s main reference for this work is Ways of Seeing by John Berger, “a classic and something I’m constantly referring back to and incessantly thinking about. There is something phenomenological about the act of being seen and seeing that I have always been fascinated by, especially as a photographer. Also, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin will forever inspire me.”
“Something that I have always admired about photography is its ability to be authentic and honest,” Kaitlin says about her interests as a photographer. “I strive to make honest, authentic, and timeless photographs. I find myself constantly searching for these moments when making images. I want to create a space within the frame for the viewer to see through my eyes in the same raw, unfiltered way that I do.” The main influences on her photography have been “my obsession with trying to understand human connection, specifically inside these familial relationships, as well as the light within renaissance paintings. I’ve always found the way light is portrayed by painters such as Caravaggio or Raphael to be so incredibly beautiful and powerful. When I’m taking photographs, I’m constantly searching for my own classical, soft, renaissance-esque light.”
Some of Kaitlin’s favorite contemporary photographers are Malerie Marder, Leigh Ledare, Jen Davis, Elinor Carucci and Torbjørn Rødland, “just to name a few“. The last photobook she bought was Pictures from Home by Larry Sultan.
Kaitlin’s #threewordsforphotography are:
Sexuality. Intimacy. Gaze.