Review by Douglas Stockdale •
In Melissa Borman’s self-published book, A Piece of Dust in the Great Sea of Matter, she captures her subjects being actively engaged with the natural landscape as a metaphor for the elements of life. A Piece of Dust, a component of her book’s title, is to place a focus on the most minimal element that composes the terrain as a metaphor for each of us as a component of mankind. The Great Sea of Matter relates to the universe and beyond, as well as calling attention to what matters to each of us collectively, thus hinting at the conceptual nature of her body of work.
Borman’s subjects have a relationship with the natural landscape, while projecting a broad range of emotional moments, from pensively introspective to be actively engaged to the point of intensively confrontational. Whereas I find her photographs to create feminine narratives similar to those of Cig Harvey, Borman avoids a poetic storyline in favor of a harder-edge reality. Borman’s subjects appear solid, and giving Borman’s background as a Roller Derby athlete, she appears to more tuned to the wholeness and weight of her subjects. Her subjects project a sense of intimacy and presence.
Her photographs are framed suggestive of potential questions as most of her subjects appear to be caught in the midst of some ambiguous act, or in the process of some encumberment, confrontation and at times appearing overwhelmed by nature while other times pushing back. A woman is captured mid-stride in process of hurling a stone against a landscape of similar stones as an act of defiance. Another subject appears to pleasantly floating in a sea of tranquility while another woman swims hard against the water, creating a small wake as she moves forward.
In one photograph, there is an arm protruding from the dense foliage; is she signaling that “I am here”, perhaps a gesture seeking help or is she parting the foliage and preparing to emerge into the sunlight from the encumbering darkness?
We observe a woman feeling her way into a dark abyss, the unyielding stony hard walls covered with lichen, representing the passing of time and ancient memories. She appears to be cautiously moving forward into the tight space, while in the interior, we can observe a small light that will probably help to illuminate her pathway for her future probing. That small illumination is representative of those who ventured before her, and through their small acts have created hope for future investigations.
The readings of this body of interesting body of work are cryptic, layered and mysterious, photographs that bring the reader back for further introspection. I sense hope and inspiration as the battle to be seen and recognized as an individual continues.
A Piece of Dust in the Great Sea of Matter, Melissa Borman
Photographer: Melissa Borman, born in Charleston, SC and is based in Minneapolis, MN.
Self-published, Minneapolis, MN, copyright 2019
Essay by Susannah Magers and text fragments by Sylvia Plath
Hard cover book with foil stamp, perfect bound, digital lithography, with captions, printed by Edition One, Berkley, CA in a numbered edition of 200.
Photobook Designer: Melissa Borman & Mathew Rezac