While I didn’t expose this connection until recently, it is clear to me that my practice, the way I make films, all has to do with a cardboard box full of photographs (more on this in future posts).
The physicality of the photograph has always attracted me. The worn edges, the illegible script, the awfully wonderful candid compositions. It was my mother’s way of storing her memories that had a great affect on me.
Under her bed, in an unassuming white cardboard box were hundreds of photos thrown haphazardly.
The only photographs framed and on view were of recent, tangible events. But in the box, were images from my mom’s past life - the one before me. In one photograph, she is twenty in New York with only the caption “see graffiti” and in the next, her hair is feathered with glasses consuming her face topped off by a peculiar smirk. And others, too complex for me to understand at the time. Impulsively, I began to fit images together like a jigsaw puzzle trying to establish a timeline. The gaps between snapshots allowed me to envisage a narrative, albeit full of non-truths and unrealistic leaps.
While the reason I make films has to do with my mother. Robin, clashed with familiar feminine stereotypes but she was not immune to them either. As the only parent in my world, the traits commonly associated with male and female co-mingled in her changing my perception and also my acceptance of these established expectations.
I have had the opportunity to work on several large scale film productions only to be met by such compliments as “I hope you’re here tomorrow, we need something to look at” and when hired as 1st AC the Director of Photography refused to let me hold the camera rig and instead handed it to a male lighting grip (which is definitely not how it works).
Filmmaking is my medium because I’m not supposed to be behind the camera. A woman's role has traditionally been in front of the camera with soft focus, a hair light, and performing a character written by a man. Unfortunately, growing up girls establish their own sense of self through these very characters on film. The male gaze stretches far and wide.
The male gaze and that method of looking at and thinking of women trickles down to all us - including me.
My films depict the intimate spaces that girls and women inhabit together to reveal aspects of femininity not necessarily beautiful or desirable but instead sincere. My characters too, are granted with a keen sense of awareness of their subject hood and force the viewer to reconcile their thoughts and expectations from frame to frame.
When they tell you to smile, bare your teeth.