Photography, storytelling and the kitchen table

Carrie Mae Weems

I recently discovered a fascinating series of images via Timothy Smith’s Creative Works blog when he pointed to the portfolio of Carrie Mae Weems.

Described by the New York Times as ‘one of the more interesting artists working in the gap between art and politics’, Weems has produced a complex body of work which turns primarily on the notion of storytelling – a concept that’s particularly close to my own heart.

Indeed, Weems says:

Storytelling is fundamental to my work, a way to best express the human condition that has been a focus of my art from my earliest documentary photographic series, Family Pictures and Stories (1978-1984). This characteristic continued through increasingly complex and layered works such as Ain’t Jokin’ (1987-1988), Colored People (1989-1990), and the Kitchen Table series (1990). In these series, I endeavored to intertwine themes as I have found them in life—racial, sexual, and cultural identity and history—and presented them with overtones of humor and sadness, loss and redemption.

These overtones are particularly evident in the following samples from her Kitchen Table series, in which Weems staged scenes in her own kitchen of “the battle around the family“, between women and men, friends and lovers, parents and children:

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As Mary Jane Jacobs has said of Weems:

Her work speaks to human experience and of the multiple aspects of individual identity, arriving at a deeper understanding of humanity.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this telling video in which Weems explains the impetus behind her Kitchen Table series:

So, what do you make of Weems’ work? Do tell!

thoughts? let me know what you think!

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