On the Brink of Conversation: Mary Rachel Fanning and Documentary Photography
In her new series of photographs, Mary Rachel Fanning focuses on her relationship to aging and family. Fanning who has been deeply dedicated to portraying and empowering humanity's underbellies for years, turns the lens on herself within her own community, revealling a certain slant of light we have never seen from her before. A subtle softness of color mixed with southern humor and compassion.
These images are on the brink of conversation, capturing the delay of thought, a crack before the smile. They are collectively stunning in their relationship to Fanning more so than any other project she has completed to this date.
Fanning has always had a history of working with people and immersing herself into the cultures and communities that she works with-- from inner city Denver to deep southern Appalachia.
So, it's not shocking that her grandparent series is reflective of this same ideology-- art as collaboration, art as empowerment, art as education. For Fanning, there has always been a moral responsibility when documenting families. It is her artistic empathy and sensitivity-- an almost unruly dedication to this morality, that allows her photography to not just be documentary work, but something more along the lines of art as a product of love, relationship, and family.
Fanning shows us a certain vulnerability in the subjects, but also a lovely vulnerablity in the composition. I hesitate to compare it to Arbus's work, only in the sense that the Fanning's images seem to be more socially aware of themselves and less linear than Arbus's work. But, what the two photographers do share, is their sense of rawness, their spontaneous reactions, the dialogue that strings the work together. The story before the image.
For Fanning, the story is heartbreaking and funny and so very southern. I have had the priveledge of meeting Fanning's grandparents, and two things that I am left with after talking with them is their sense of story. They are amazing storytellers who have so much to share with the world, one story being, how they met and fell in love so many years ago, and still to this day how much nothing has changed between them.
This is the modern day fairy tale that very few couples ever see. It is one of love, time, and humor towards the end of everything, as the age continues. And, Fanning is there, capturing this very rare and beautiful world.
Review by Stacy Elaine Dacheux
Photo Above Entitled "Strawberries and Icecream" Courtesy of Mary Rachel Fanning Copyright 2005.
View Mary Rachel Fanning's photography at www.maryrachelfanning.com