Research notes – Trish Morrisey

Looking at Morrissey’s series “Front” (link to images)(1), any doubts about what is going own are cleared by the explanatory text (link)(2), in which the photographer reveals her process and implies that everybody in the shot seems to have been a willing participant in the exercise. Even with this explanation, It is still slightly unnerving to see Morrissey getting quite close to total strangers and holding somebody else’s children in her arms as if they were her own. If somebody were looking at this picture without the text, it could perhaps be construed quite differently, perhaps as a performance piece where the people in the photographs were actors. The set is actually made interesting, even slightly controversial, by the explanation, which is fundamental to the effect conveyed. In my opinion, this is about exploring the boundaries of trust and confidence: approached by a total stranger, purporting to be a photographer with a project, do we believe what this person is telling us and allow them to usurp our place, even temporarily, among our family and friends? To touch our children and our partners? How would our attitude change if the appearance of the photographer was different? If he was male rather than female? If she was using a less believable instrument, such as her smartphone or a point and shoot camera rather than a large format apparatus mounted in a tripod? We tend to trust our first instincts and these are formed by at the junction of what we see externally (appearances) and whatever stereotypes we hold. In doing this project using a medium that dwells on the superficial, like photography, Morrissey seems to be emphasising the point that there is more than what meets the eye.

Morrissey uses herself as prop for many of her photographic series. In some cases, like in the series “Seven Years” (link)(3), the use of her likeness has an autobiographical dimension, but in other cases, such as “Ten People in a Suitcase” (link)(4) she is just acting as a model to convey an idea unrelated to her life. There is one particular series in which she participates as something else. In “The Failed Realist” (link)(5) she seem to be acting as the medium for somebody else’s artistic expression (her daughter’s). Her role in this series is completely passive: She assumes the same deadpan expression throughout the series and all the shots, head and shoulders completely naked, are taken with complete uniformity of scale and light. Essentially the only thing that changes throughout the series is the colour and shape of the splodges of paint inflicted by the photographer’s daughter on her face and neck. As hinted by the artist’s statement, she as acted merely as a canvas in this case. This series for me has come to symbolize the effect that society and the environment in which we growth and live has on us, in many cases against our will or best intentions to know or do better. These “splodges” that we receive from time to time, passively and involuntarily, and which eventually are hard to clean off.

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(1)  Trish Morrissey. 2018. Trish Morrissey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html. [Accessed 28 January 2018].

(2) Trish Morrissey. 2018. Trish Morrissey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/statement.html. [Accessed 28 January 2018].

(3) Trish Morrissey. 2018. Trish Morrissey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-sy/workpg-01.html. [Accessed 28 January 2018].

(4) Trish Morrissey. 2018. Trish Morrissey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/Work-ten/workpg-01.html. [Accessed 28 January 2018].

(5) Trish Morrissey. 2018. Trish Morrissey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/workpg-01.html. [Accessed 28 January 2018].

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