Katie Pollard: Passing
Photographer’s finer details speak strongly of the mourning process
This article is from 2009.
This set of 15 C-type prints by American photographer Pollard was created in the short- and medium-term aftermath of the artist’s father’s death two years ago. The works track the reactions of her family to the news over an extended period of time.
These photographs are not parts of a documentary reportage series. The majority of them appear either posed or at least controlled or manipulated by their author in some way. Still, Pollard captures some scenes whose finer details speak strongly of the mourning process. The first image, for example, features an older woman (possibly the widow?) sitting hugging a dog in what looks like a suburban back yard. The title, ‘New Deck’, draws the attention to the wood surface she’s sitting on – perhaps a hand-crafted legacy from the late father?
Pollard says her aim was to take these photographs from her father’s ‘perspective as he looks in on us’. This suggests a certain religious or supernatural connotation from the artist’s point of view, although it’s hard to tell precisely where she’s emphasising this. These are images which cry out for narration, and beyond simple one- or two-word titles, they don’t receive it. ‘Invitational 2008’ depicts an unhappy young woman (maybe the artist or a sister?) sitting by a running track, while the diptych ‘Intravenous I & II’ shows first an older woman then the dog from earlier hooked up their own IV drips. Was the track a favourite haunt of the father and his girl(s)? Did grief affect the latter pair’s health? It might be more sympathetic to the show’s purpose to identify all concerned and to place them in context.
A prominent feature of these strongly-composed pieces is their almost complete lack of male presence, most particularly in the unofficial diptych ‘Our Time’ (pictured) and ‘Sold’; the first has the young woman from the track sitting in the passenger seat of a 4x4, gazing numbly at the indented, empty driver’s seat; the second shows her gazing in the vehicle’s window at this lost haven. In this situation, the artist seems to speak not just of her own loss, but of the break-up of the nuclear family.
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