Stepping into Amanda James’s photographs feels like sinking into the realness of a young couple’s family life. The award-winning Sweet Little Lies is James’s latest photographic project and gathers a series of pictures depicting the rawness of domestic life.
Clouds, nature, food and family. The imagery that conforms ‘Sweet Little Lies’ looks like a selection of organic elements that could be part of anyone’s daily life…
Precisely. They are organic elements, that are both candid and staged fragments of my life as a young mother. The photographs of nature came from mourning my freedom, were I found myself homebound, and I yearned to be free. It was such a drastic change from being able to do whatever I wanted, to then being indoors all day filled with schedules and chores. There are many other outdoor pictures that I took for this series, it seemed it was all I wanted to photograph for a long time. These are the ones that made the edit because they went along with the narrative.
Sweet Little Lies seems to bring up a lot of yourself as a mother, a wife and an artist. How has this work helped you to experience all these different projections of yourself?
Sometimes I like to work candidly and see what comes out of what I’m photographing. I work intuitively and because of this, what is in the pictures, is what is inside of me. I didn’t realise I was having these conflicting feelings until they started to come out in my pictures. I was confused why I was having these feelings, and I felt a lot of guilt about it. I had two beautiful children, and a loving husband, why couldn’t that be enough?
So with such vast work, how has the process of assembling this project been?
It was rather intuitive, and also had a play on the scriptures that came next to the photographs. I wanted to start the book with the beginning of creation, so I began with the sky and the clouds, looking upward to the heavens, and then to the raw earth. It is a sequence of life on earth told by my life, but also in sequence to the story of creation, and of Adam and Eve in the Bible.
Tell me more about your use of passages from the Bible’s Book of Genesis…
I come from a very religious background, and it’s part of my heritage, part of who I am. I also could feel the pressures of being a Woman in a religious community. With photography I feel like I can have voice, and that I can tell of my point of view through art.
Hence the story of Adam and Eve…
The story of Adam and Eve was important because I felt that the way the story of creation was told in the Bible had some unfairness to Women. Women were created for Man, and she was taken out of Man for Man. Also, because Eve partakes of the fruit, she was cursed.
Within the mother/wife role, is there any intention to document your family when you take pictures of your husband and sons?
Yes and no. I do feel the need to document certain events in my children’s life, but not with my camera I use to make art. I usually do the “Family Album” type of pictures with my Polaroid camera.
I find very interesting how we interact nowadays with this kind of family portraiture and the use of social media to document our social relationships.
I think about this a lot. Social media is self promotion, and it’s not reality, which photography is neither. But, there’s a different motivation behind photographing one’s life for a social media platform compared to that of fine art photography. In a way it can be seen as a type of portraiture, but it has its motives behind it. I also have my motives for the pictures I take, but instead of self-promotion, I am motivated by self-reflection which makes for a totally different dialog.
I see a remarkable relation on your pictures to those of Sally Mann or Diane Arbus…
I love these two photographers. My earliest influence was Diane Arbus, I related to her view of how she never felt like she fit in. I also just read Sally Mann’s, Hold Still, memoir and it was fascinating. I found such a connection to that woman. We both have very different backgrounds, but we are similar in the way we photograph our children.
Finally, are you working on anything at the moment?
I’ve been working on a series since graduate school on my children. I like to photograph my children outside looking dirty, naked, untamed, and wild. I keep wanting to move onto something else besides my children, but it’s what I want to photograph. It’s not a very popular subject, but I can’t get away from it at the moment. I’m excited to see what comes from it!
Words: Marta Faria
Editor: Emma Bourne
Artist: Amanda James