Focus on Portraiture: Pam Connolly: Salon Studies
Pam Connolly created a terrific series of portraits prior to self-quarantining, of women in the process of maintaining their hair color–a practice that has now been reconsidered since Covid. At once humorous and fascinating, these portraits consider new ways of witnessing an unremarkable event, often hidden from the rest of the world, that sit in the realm of classic portraiture from centuries ago. But she also considers the psychology of the act of, as she states, “sitting before a large mirror for an extended period of time facing one’s visage without the normal signifiers of hairstyle and clothing. Torsos covered by capes and heads saturated with chemicals we are left to stare in the mirror while the solutions cure. This stripped down state reveals a vulnerability I find deeply compelling.”
Pam Connolly has been photographing the theme of home for 10+ years. Her tin dollhouses, family portraits, and photographs of domestic spaces look closely at the American dream and the yearning for perfection and belonging.
Connolly received an MFA in Photography from the Hartford Art School’s International Limited-Residency Program (2014). Her photographs belong to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts Permanent Collection, and her artist book ‘Cabriole’ was recently acquired by the Beineke Library at Yale University and the Fine Arts Library at Harvard University. She has exhibited her work internationally, including the National Portrait Gallery in London in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition (2015).
Connolly has taught photography at The Horace Mann and Masters Schools in New York, and with the ‘Kids With Cameras’ organization for kids at risk. She lives in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, with her husband David and her dog Sampson.
Salon Studies takes a close-up look at a group of women between the ages of 45 and 65 and the variation in their responses to the question of whether to dye their hair to maintain their appearance as it is/was, or to let nature prevail and go grey naturally. The issues that arise out of this decision tap into a societal fear of aging that for many is difficult to step away from.
Part of the hair coloring process includes sitting before a large mirror for an extended period of time facing one’s visage without the normal signifiers of hairstyle and clothing. Torsos covered by capes and heads saturated with chemicals we are left to stare in the mirror while the solutions cure. This stripped down state reveals a vulnerability I find deeply compelling.
As part of my process I often photograph my subjects’ reflections in the mirror. I direct them to look closely at themselves, or directly into the lens of the camera, through the mirror. I am interested in the way one arranges and presents oneself under these circumstances.
These portraits are very much about the experience of being looked at: by oneself, the photographer, the viewer, and a society that often appears to value youth above all else.
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