Thinking About Photography
Dedicated to expanding our ideas about photography
Jo Ann Chaus
©Jo Ann Chaus, Wrapped
Sweetie & Hansom
In 2008, I was enrolled in a class with Susan Kleckner called “A Roll a Day” at the International Center of Photography in New York City. A roll a day is yes, 36 pictures a day, which likely initiated my practice of recording my travels through out a day, anywhere and everywhere. I was headed to Florida for a visit with my parents that week, and she urged me, almost wistfully, to “make pictures, make pictures” of them while I was there. I read it as an urgent message, to record what I could when I could; it was great advice.
There is something that happens in my body at the moment of seeing something that bears recording, and again viewing it later when it was the right capture; what is the message in the image? What history has been recorded there, ancient and current, declaring I was there, we were there, and here we are now?
©Jo Ann Chaus, Pink Slippers
I made many visits with the curiosity and intention to get to know them better as people, not just as my parents. Ultimately it was an insight to understanding myself better as well, and a long inquiry to understanding the relationships within and between them, my brothers and me. While there was some discomfort with them as we were often awkward together, the camera was a shield between them and me, and satisfied us all: they were agreeable, liked the attention, were photogenic and had a beautiful home. I could be an observer and a participant, whenever a moment or the light was right, and spending so much time yielded a beautiful body of work, and a new intimacy with them.
©Jo Ann Chaus, Evening
©Jo Ann Chaus, Morph
The images were made over a seven-year period, with signs of aging and temporality of time. The heart of the work is about family, loss, grief, and love, which presented itself after the sudden passing of my younger brother who had struggled with addiction for most of his fifty-four years. It is also about how a family comes together to support one another when they don’t really know how. Over those seven years many secrets were revealed and I got to know and love my parents more deeply. The images express the unfathomable pain sustained amidst the beauty of and within their home, the collective and private unspoken fears and unease they each carried for years.
©Jo Ann Chaus, Shower
After this work seemed complete I self-published Sweetie & Hansom in 2016, with twelve pages of original text. I learned how to look deeply, over time at a subject. Conversations with Myself, the next body of work, presented itself organically as I began looking at myself with the same curiosity, to get to know and understand myself as I am and what mattered to me after so many years of being there for others.
©Jo Ann Chaus, Blue Room
The work lives as prints and in a self-published book by the title Sweetie & Hansom, printed by Conveyor Editions in NJ. Images have been shown in Maryland and SxSE Gallery in Molena Georgia in 2018.