Review by Douglas Stockdale •
The loss of a parent is always emotionally difficult regardless of one’s age, perhaps especially if this event occurs early in one’s life. The ways an individual can come to terms with the tragic impact varies. For Sarah Hadley an emotional convergence occurred well after her father’s passing at a place that she and her father frequently had visited together; Venice, Italy. It was a chance encounter that Hadley experienced at this storied city that became a triggering event for her artistic investigation about her father’s memory and their mutual love of Venice.
Hadley’s, Lost Venice, is a poetic narrative that taps into feelings of loss and melancholy. A friend of mine, Molly McCall, recently wrote of her own work that I find equally resonates with Hadley’s book: “…in how memory forms our sense of being and how that can be affected by the contradictions that the past and present pose. In the act of remembering, there is a point where reality and the interpretation of reality cross, and it’s that intersection that I wish to explore.”
Venice is a place that has been photographed countless times and what I find effective in Hadley’s photographs is her sense of the mystery of Venice without becoming documentary. This may be due in large part to her many visits to this beautiful city and a familiarity that allows her photographs to transcend beyond capturing the beautiful architecture and the intricate waterways that most of us find so captivating on first blush. Her use of black and white images, soft focus and atmospheric conditions further abstracts her body of work and the sepia tones create a nice emotional warmth.
In Hadley’s process of interpreting reality, she incorporates visual ambiguity that hints at the process of looking for fragments of memory. Her storyline reminds me of the mythical travels on a journey on and along the waters of the River Styx into a Mythological underworld. A double page photo of sticks (an intriguing visual wordplay on Styx) at the water’s edge with the background fading into the fog of an indistinct and unknown place, see below, is every bit mysterious as the underworld.
The soft-focus photograph following the lyrical “Styx” photograph is of a solitary individual on a small boat that is plying the dark waters; these two photographs in series exemplifying wonderful storytelling. The final journey is regretfully taken alone, as well as leaving those behind, alone, while the departed moves on this solitary and lonely travel to where ever it may lead. This is also a beautiful metaphor that similarly Hadley will continue on her journey unaccompanied with only her memories.
Hadley’s book is a delightful collection of haunting photographs in which she creates a narrative that enables the reader to contemplate relationships and individuals that resulted in solitary journeys.
Lost Venice, Sarah Hadley
Artist: Sarah Hadley, born in Boston, MA, resides in Los Angeles, CA, USA
Publisher: Damiani Editore, slr, Bologna, Italy, copyright 2020
Essay: Karen Haas & Interview: Susan Burnstine
Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed by Grafiche Damiani, Bologna, Italy
Photobook designer: Caleb Cain Marcus, Luninositylab, NYC
Editor’s note: I need to reveal that I was one of many who provided Sarah Hadley with some early book development assistance with her photo book, so I have a bit of personal bias about my strong interest in her book.