Laws of Silence

Nominated by Elizabeth Avedon

Featuring Jennifer McClure

 

“When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don’t work. It’s like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. ” – Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I’ve been afraid of letting go of the life I was programmed to live. I was taught that having a family and a home and a church and a regular job, all good Southern values, meant that I was successful. My own family life was difficult and displaced, not something I wished to reproduce. I am distrustful of both people and the idea of the American Dream. I’ve avoided any of the rites and rituals that signify “success” but failed to replace a broken mythology with any other.

I began searching for signs of meaningful relationships and missed opportunities, trying to piece together a map of how to be. I needed to look at the past, see it clearly, and then see beyond it. Symbols of a damaged childhood, when contained within a frame, no longer carry the unbounded force of memory. Signs of connection, when taken out of context, reveal themselves to be fallacies. I have been afraid that I will drown in other people. I couldn’t see how water can soothe and sustain as well as destroy.

Thomas Roma likens the making of photographs to Robert Frost’s idea of making a poem: “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness, a lovesickness.” These pictures come from that emotional space of longing, of wishing for things that never were and might never be. I can only see a feeling clearly when I disarm and immobilize it, pin it to the wall and examine it with the others. I’m learning how to be alone without being lonely, how to be carried without being overwhelmed, and to walk away from what I want to leave behind.

Jennifer McClure is a fine art and documentary photographer based in New York City. She uses the camera to ask and answer questions. Jennifer turned the camera on herself after a long illness limited her access to other people. She is interested in appearances and absences, short stories, poetry, and movies without happy endings.

Jennifer was born in Virginia and raised all over the Southeast. The child of a Marine, she moved frequently and traumatically. She decorated her walls with traces of her past; photographs became anchor points. After acquiring a B.A. in English Theory and Literature, Jennifer began a long career in restaurants. She returned to photography in 2001, taking classes at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography. She is currently a teaching assistant at ICP. She was named one of LensCulture’s Top 50 Emerging Talents of 2015 and awarded CENTER’s Editor’s Choice by Susan White of Vanity Fair in 2013. Her work has been exhibited in numerous shows across the country and featured in publications such as Lenscratch, Feature Shoot, L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Photo Review, Dwell, Adbusters, and PDN.