So Close: A Photo MFA Student’s Thesis in Progress

So Close: A Photo MFA Student’s Thesis in Progress

The end of the semester is so close, but first, there is work to be done. The past 14 weeks have been a spectacular doozy, in a good way!

When studying in the Photography MFA program at Columbia, there is a core class: Graduate Seminar. It is 9 credit hours, and it is the heart of everything here. It is the class you share with all of your peers, it is the class you show them your work, it is the class where you get critiqued and get your heart ripped out and maybe even cry not like this has ever happened to me before shhh no it’s fine I’m fine.

For the past three semesters, my work has revolved around childhood sexual trauma. My biggest problem has been trying to portray this topic photographically, since photographs are seemingly very real portrayals of events, and no one wants to see pictures of childhood sexual abuse. It’s been a very careful journey as I’ve figured out how to talk about this topic without turning off my viewer. Childhood sexual abuse is a pandemic in America, but no one wants to talk about it because it is too personal, too painful.

I’ve been creating tableaus and metaphors to try and talk about this sensitive topic. I am by no means finished with my exploration, as I have not only next semester but the rest of my life as an artist to keep perfecting my craft, but I will share a couple images and my thoughts behind how they relate to childhood sexual trauma.

This is one of my more constructed images. I was thinking a lot about my own childhood and how I found comfort in bright colors and cartoons; typical childhood things. However, I was thinking about how I was hiding my own abuse, trying to be a happy, outgoing child, to camouflage the pain and suffering I was experiencing.

A lot of my work is inspired by my personal experiences, but my viewer doesn’t necessarily need to know my anecdotes to understand the images. For this particular image, the grass is dead and a child’s backpack is left behind, almost like a crime scene. For me, the personal experience was being bullied on my way home from school, kids following me and kicking my rolling backpack until it fell apart.

A bright pink dollhouse, filled with dirt. A brick wall in the window, darkness past the door. What else is there to explain?


These are just a few images from a much larger body of work. Sorry for the heavy, somewhat-depressing work… Have a puppy.