Photographs with a void

I am not particularly drawn to photography, and I was surprised when I found myself gravitating towards Kathleen Overman’s work. I first went to the gallery opening, and even without an explanation, I found hers to be very intriguing. Her photographs were mostly of objects, which seemed to be important in her life, and places. The subjects of her work seemed to exude a sense of loneliness and emptiness, almost as if something or someone was missing. I got this immediately without any explanation. During her talk, she discussed the relationship between the past and the present. She talked about her works as still lives with a sense of emptiness. She said that “greatness exists in the details” referring to her photographs of small objects or objects without immediate meaning.

Her photos stem from the feeling of loss. She didn’t go deeply into the story behind the photos, which I found fascinating. It was almost as if the story wasn’t as important as the feeling that her photos evoked. I liked that. From what she told, her mother had died, and possibly also her father. She had to go through her empty family home, with all the memories of childhood, now filled with a void. She described her photographs as “parts of a sentence” which I thought was fitting. Her pictures definitely told a story and all together formed a dialogue of emptiness.

She also mentioned how she had diverged from writing about people, and focused on objects or places. I think this concept definitely is conducive to her theme. Without people, in her photographs you can still get the idea that people were once there, and have left their footprints. That’s what I got from her photographs. I definitely see the presence of people, but the fact that they aren’t there anymore gives a haunting feeling, a feeling of inhabitation.

One series of hers, the smaller collection, and the only ones, interestingly enough, with people also drew me in. The series of photographs are of what seems to be a dresser drawer with photos and boxes and other mementos on top. There are blurred figures, almost like the ghost outline of a human. She set the camera up (I’m not too technical with photography, so forgive me!) and the shutter speed so that she could record her, as she was moving, but in one still shot. She had no idea what the camera was recording, and let herself look at the objects. She said this was the first time she had come back and was looking at the old objects and reliving her past. She called these “lucky shots fragmenting my exploration of the past” which I thought was absolutely fascinating. She said that she developed a relationship with her camera. She treated it like a friend, talking to it, and sharing the experience of looking at these objects with it. For these pictures, I didn’t get a sense of importance regarding the aesthetics as much as the meaning. The story is what really made me like the pieces a lot more. First looking at them, I wasn’t too intrigued, but once I heard the back-story, I began to like them much more.

I really like her photographs, and I think she did an excellent job conveying meaning. The photos give a personal insight to her life, but they also speak for themselves. I think they are a wonderful collection, and I loved the feeling of emptiness I received when I looked at them. For some reason I couldn’t tear myself away from them, and maybe it was the simplicity of the photos, but for me, they really said something.

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