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Through My Looking Glass

My Grand Father was a trans woman        (though in the mid 1970s-80s we thought of it as cross dressing). I remember his dress in my Grand Mother's wardrobe, all moss green polyester with large pink flowers and his clumsy attempts to apply circles of blusher and pale blue eye shadow. I was abused as a child by my maternal grand parents, their friends and a doctor. Raped, beaten and knocked unconscious. I am not sure why their rage did not kill me. I knew how to keep secrets (or tell and be punished) and I knew broken bones, depression, and the longing to escape and build a new life, my own family. This became a photography project about other families, what is an ordinary life? 

I began to learn forgiveness by photographing trans women where I found kindness and wisdom. To let go I turned to yoga and meditation. I went to my home town again and started photographing my spaces. The houses and the woods and to collage them with some of the images of me as a child. Working with photographs to form memories is new to me.  When I manipulate the images I am trying to convey how feelings, my sadness, loneliness and fear. 

Working with other families is vastly different,  therapeutic , and more like my home life now.  The day to day life of parents who happen to be of the same sex, who maybe also feel misunderstood.

I have this waking dream and compulsion to look through the window at the lives of families. The snow globe. I am outside the McDonalds near my home, looking in, pressed up against the glass. I thought I had been abandoned outside, until someone asked if I was also trapped by the glass. My lens is made of glass too and when I shoot I am watching the families who invite me into their homes, but I feel peace. With my camera in my hand I feel none of the anguish of my childhood, but a sense of gentleness as I observe the life between those bound by blood and relationships. Later I am bemused again, what is a family? It is not defined by the middle-class nuclear vision of my parents, I see that love is diverse. 

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