Jessica Eve Rattner: House of Charm
We live in a culture that likes to fix things, a culture that likes to keep up appearances and not color outside the lines. When we encounter someone living on their own terms, our first instinct it to fit them into our norm. Jessica Eve Rattner’s project, House of Charm, takes a sympathetic look at a women surely struggling with her demons, but very much satisfied with her lifestyle. Jessica opens the door to a world beyond our comprehension, and she doesn’t just invite us in, she shares an intimate and non-judgemental glimpse into mental illness that comes from years of working as a clinical social worker.
There are some wonderful things on the horizon for Jessica–she’s attending Review Santa Fe in the fall, has her first solo exhibition coming up at the Center for Fine Art Photography next summer and has recently launched a second website to feature her family and children work.
Jessica Eve Rattner worked as a writer, editor, and clinical social worker before turning to photography at age 40 when she set out to make beautiful photographs of her children. Her focus shifted further from home when she began to photograph her neighbor Lee.
Jessica has always been fascinated by the cultural constructs of mental health and the question of who decides what is healthy or sane and what is not. Her photography is driven by an interest in people and their stories, particularly in the stories and lives of those who haven’t the voice or means to be heard on their own, and those who exist on the fringes of what is considered “normal.”
She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband, kids, dog, and cats.
House of Charm
House of Charm is the ongoing portrait of Lee, an eighty year-old woman whose dirty clothes, greasy hair and dilapidated home conceal a beauty and intelligence that most people don’t easily see. It’s a story about aging alone and being different. It’s also about strength, resilience, and uncommon equanimity.
A former social worker, I am interested in our culture’s ideas of beauty, happiness, and mental health — especially as they relate to women. Who decides who is “crazy” and who is “sane”? Most people perceive Lee as crazy. Few get close enough to learn that while she is indeed eccentric, she is also intelligent, learned, charming, and self-assured.
When I met Lee, I was at first drawn to her colorful eccentricity, but years later it is her unusual contentment that continues to intrigue me. Without romanticizing her situation, I can’t help but wonder if Lee’s contentment in the midst of astonishing squalor, and her apparent freedom from society’s expectations, point to some secret the rest of us are missing.
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