Focus on Self-Portraiture: Jennifer McClure
This week we are looking into the mirror and considering who we see. Photographer and educator Jennifer McClure has been examining self for much of her photographic legacy and she is our editor this week, sharing five artists who are working in the genre of Self-Portraiture. Today we begin with Jennifer’s project, Still the Body, where she contemplates an unexpected pregnancy and chronicles the changes not only to her physical self, but the internal journey of motherhood. Her gestural work both conceals and reveals with brilliant color, humor, and a touch of the surreal.
Jennifer McClure is a fine art photographer based in New York City. She uses the camera to ask and answer questions. Her work is about solitude and a poignant, ambivalent yearning for connection. The Leica Gallery in Boston will present a solo show of her work in April 2021. She was a 2019 and 2017 Critical Mass Top 50 finalist and twice received the Arthur Griffin Legacy Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography’s annual juried exhibitions. Jennifer was awarded CENTER’s Editor’s Choice by Susan White of Vanity Fair in 2013 and has been exhibited in numerous shows across the country. She has taught workshops for Leica, PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo, the Maine Media Workshops, The Griffin Museum, and Fotofusion. Her work has been featured in publications such as NatGeo Travel, Vogue, GUP, The New Republic, Lenscratch, Feature Shoot, L’Oeil de la Photographie, The Photo Review, Dwell, and PDN. She also founded the Women’s Photo Alliance in 2015. Jennifer has an upcoming workshop with Maine Media.
Still the Body
I got pregnant on my wedding night. I was forty-five. Several doctors had mentioned that children weren’t in the cards for me, and I had long since stopped contemplating the idea. We were terrified. A million things could go wrong, and we had already made plans for ourselves. Time passed and we made no decision. That became our decision.
I couldn’t let myself feel joy. I slept and I worried. Would my aging body be able to carry the pregnancy? Would she be healthy? What if we didn’t like each other? How would I know what to do? Would I disappear? I made photos as a way to manage my anxiety, to bring order to the chaos. And as I watched myself grow in the pictures, I saw that my body and my child were on their own path. The act of photographing allowed me to observe the process as though it were happening to someone else. I began to appreciate the oddity of the experience, the imbalance and the enormity.
My body became a signifier, a flag announcing my entrance into this most female of roles. A pregnancy is a strange in-between time, an odd state of limbo. My years before these months were defined by independence; I made several bodies of work about not needing marriage or children to feel complete. I hadn’t even adjusted to being someone’s wife and I was about to be someone’s mother. I had no I idea what kind of mother I would be. Some people regret not having a child. I was worried that I might regret having one.
While I fought my fears about losing my own identity, my body forced me to sit still. My body took over as I struggled with what to hold on to and what to release. There would be an end, there would be a beginning. This was my interlude.
Claudia Rankine has graciously allowed me to title the images with text from her book Plot.
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