Elinor Carucci’s work has been somewhat of an inspiration for me during this project. She isn’t afraid to get up close and personal, and the intimacy of her work is something I aspire to. This was difficult to achieve in my own photography, particularly due to my anxiety about being in compromising or awkward situations. Carruci, however, achieves this effortlessly.
The work that resonated instantly with From The Bottom Up was ‘Menstrual Blood’ (2000). Prior to encountering Carucci, I believe my work was incredibly tame and I was scared to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to photograph. Upon reflection, this hesitation is due to my own conditioning: how far is too far? Being shown this image in class was followed by an epiphanic moment where I realised that I had not been challenging myself enough in my work. Carucci’s challenging of taboo in this way, capturing images that may evoke discomfort – my boyfriend squirmed upon seeing it on my computer screen. ‘Blood in this context’, as he worded it, isn’t normal for men to see. I believe that making lived experience visible in this way is necessary, and tried to channel Carucci in my photography.
She also achieves this in more subtle ways (somewhat). Carucci’s exploration of family through her photography is unusual, capturing images such as her Grandfather in the shower, her Father in his underwear, her topless in front of her father, and her and her partner in bed. These are all incredibly intimate moments; the former three are arguably strange themselves – it feels uncomfortable to imagine a daughter capturing these photographs of her male family members. Perhaps not the traditional imagination of family, yet Carucci succeeds in capturing the intimacy of her family life and lived experience. Obviously, families live through different, subjective norms. As a carer, these images hold a particular resonance, since these are scenarios that I see on a daily basis.
And of course, I cannot neglect Carucci’s portrayal of womanhood. Armpit (1995) shows the suggestion of underarm hair, which has come to represent something of female empowerment in recent years. This exploration of womanhood is something I tried to embody in From The Bottom Up: in my own work, it is much more subtle due to the limitations of the spaces I was capturing. Ideally I would’ve loved to create images more in tune with Carucci’s work, but this just wasn’t achievable. Not having subjects to photograph contributed to this difficulty, as well as the nature of the public toilets I was working in.
A selection of images from From The Bottom Up (2018)
Lighting was also an issue; my images are naturally colder and more clinical than Carruci’s work. The vibrant wallpapers and duvet covers also provide contrasting backgrounds at times, which add an unusual atmosphere to the work. This is something that wasn’t feasible to replicate in my own work; the only exception to this was my trip to Vietnam, where one of the ladies’ toilets was painted a vibrant pink.
Despite being world’s away from her technical ability, I think that mine and Carucci’s motives are aligned; capturing the mundane, the everyday. I felt encouraged by the existence of such work; I believe a focus on this area of lived experience is absolutely vital to understanding how identities and social norms are produced and reproduced, and translated into the wider world. As Second Wave Feminists say, the personal is political. Carucci communicates this beautifully in her work. I hope to be able to work towards her level in my own practice. Her work is almost comforting, and always makes me smile with its honesty and integrity.
Photographs property of Elinor Carucci, unless otherwise stated.