Fine Art Photography Daily

Heather Evans Smith: Alterations

young girl with hair in thread spool rollers - green background

©Heather Evans Smith, Curl

Wikipedia describes the word nostalgia as being “associated with a yearning for the past, its personalities, and events, especially the “good old days” or a “warm childhood”. This description fits Heather Evans Smith’s richly saturated conceptual still lifes that feel at once part of the past and present, yet it’s that combination of what once was with the beauty and fragility of youth that makes a magical pairing moving the work beyond the nostalgic she breathes new life into the ideas and objects of the past. Her most recent series, Alterations, focuses on memories of her grandmother at the sewing machine. As someone who knows her way around a needle and thread, I was immediately drawn to these beautiful ways of honoring the commemorative remembrance of person and practice.

Heather Evans Smith’s work reflects her southern roots, motherhood, womanhood and a whimsical imagination she relied on as an only child in a rural town. Smith’s work has been featured in solo and joint exhibitions internationally and nationwide, magazines, literary journals and online publications. Her awards include PDN’s The Curator and Critical Mass Top 50 in both 2014 and 2018. She has been invited as a guest lecturer at colleges, universities and photography conferences such as Australian Exposure in the Gold Coast, Australia and the Real Life photography conference in Alberta, Canada. Her first monograph, Seen Not Heard, was published by Flash Powder Projects in 2016. She lives and works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Birthday cake with spools of thread on top

©Heather Evans Smith, March 1st


Born on her birthday, my granny was the greatest love and loss of my childhood. My fondest memories were in the alterations department in which she worked, getting lost among the whir of machines, boxes of discarded buttons and dressing rooms. It was a playground of sorts, and my most vivid memories of a relationship that ended too soon.

Growing older I’ve discovered that I knew very little about her as a person, remembering only the love that was given. These photographs serve as metaphors for the way we alter, mend, and piece together memories, in order to make sense of what we have lost.


©Heather Evans Smith, Pins and Needles

vintage spool display with woman's hand

©Heather Evans Smith, Spool

young girl with zipper on spine

©Heather Evans Smith, Zipper

child's hang pulling open a brody's bag

©Heather Evans Smith, Brody’s

young girl in stringy monogram vest

©Heather Evans Smith, Heartstrings

girl hiding under dressing room curtain

©Heather Evans Smith, Dressing Room

woman with seam ripper, ripping off Izod logo

©Heather Evans Smith, Class System

girls hands in lots of buttons

©Heather Evans Smith, Buttons

woman's hands with thimbles on burgundy background

©Heather Evans Smith, Thimble

girl hiding in large coat

©Heather Evans Smith, Coat

Vintage blue sewing machine with hair threaded through

©Heather Evans Smith, Lock

old photos sewn together

©Heather Evans Smith, Mend


©Heather Evans Smith, Mildred

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