I came to photography late. My formative years were filled with the study and teaching of the English language and literature, but when my daughter was born–and a year later my son–I naturally morphed into a full-time mother and caretaker. As such child rearing took over and was so physically and mentally demanding that I only realized when my children turned 3 and 4 that I had experienced a profound loss of self in the process. There was a void and photography came to me as the evident instrument to express it. Maybe because growing up in the 80’s, I was given a Polaroid when I was 7 to take pictures of family, friends and pets. Maybe because, years after that, the immediate image that my digital camera delivered in the LCD screen gave me the reassurance I needed as a beginner to gain confidence. In any case, photography was therapeutic and based in self-inquiry, and so I effortlessly pointed my lens at my family and myself.
When my daughter was born, I was told that she had the “physical markers” for Down syndrome and a blood test confirmed the diagnosis a few days later. Sixteen years later, these “markers” have grown with her, and her disability remains visible to the outside world. As we try to go about our ordinary lives in our community, I often catch people staring at her, at us. With this on-going series “REGARD”, I am answering their questions with a window into our reality. In each methodically set up scene, the viewers are plunged into the outside perspective via my direct return gaze. In “REGARD” I strive to claim the normalcy of Luigia’s life, one image at a time.
Every photographic series that I have developed has sprouted out of a previous series, but the “genre” or “style” with which they are expressed varies according to what concepts are visually discussed. In “9”—a daily meditation on my daughter’s place in the world—I use a documentary style that affords me simplicity, closeness or distance, and the flexibility necessary to achieve a daily picture. In “REGARD”, nothing is left for chance. Every aspect is planned, staged and performed. The images are posed self-portraits of my daughter and me and they are developed in black and white. What brings these series together as my body of work is that my family and I are the focus of my camera. We are the participants that enable me to explore the concepts of memory, transformation, and visibility.
My series “REGARD” is very basic in its concept: it shows a child, it shows a mother, it shows them living at home, performing familial acts. Because I believe in the connective power offered by the depiction of domesticity, I hope that “REGARD” helps the audience rethink some of their assumptions about people living with disabilities and with this, I hope my series finds a humble spot within the movement that helps people with disabilities gain visibility and exposure.
You can find the full series on Anna’s website HERE. Anna has been widely recognized for Regard and has shared her personal experience conceptualizing and photographing her series in numerous interviews. You can read a particularly insightful interview HERE. Follow Anna on Instagram to see more of her work @annaaudegrevenitis