With a Finger She Guided My Eye Along the Rift in the Rock, 2019–20
This series unfolds in a quarry where two characters, a photographer and a quarrywoman, perform their respective jobs. The work grew out of my relationship with a woman named Stacy–the only female employee in a New England quarry's two-hundred-year history.
When I first met Stacy she was behind a desk in the quarry’s office. She’d sustained and recovered from an injury, but was still phone-bound because, she’d been told, she was “good at communication.” Stacy described the work she used to do, splitting granite with a hammer, moving a two ton rock with a thin metal rod. I’d never seen a quarrywoman rendered in a photograph. As our mutual curiosity about one another developed, so did a shared need to make the unseen seen.
As she was phone-bound, we needed to create a fictional world–but one in which her character was truly performing the work of a quarrywoman because, as Stacy explained, if “the guys” didn’t see her cutting stone, it was as if her ability to do so wasn’t real. She grudgingly understood her legitimacy in the quarry to depend on the veracity of an image.
Working with a medium and in an environment with tangled histories, I invert expectations about Stacy’s labor and photography. The anonymity emphasizes the characters’ physicality and the hand tools they use which allow them to shape forces larger than themselves. Various forms of image-making allow aesthetic differences to disrupt any perceived neutrality. An image generated by AI software, points to how pernicious biases persist in algorithmic form, and subverts photographic conventions that the b&w images establish. These gestures underscore the constructed nature of pictures, the expectations they engender, and the impossibility of acquiring a complete story. I don’t know the narrative Stacy would give shape to. This series is my portrait of how a relationship was forged–through pressure in a granite quarry, emerging out of a deep desire to see and be seen.