Maria Falconer describes walking into her surprise 50th birthday party to be confronted by images of her former self. Some of the images recorded an earlier time when she was involved in an abusive relationship. She was, I guess, ‘shocked and traumatised’ (my words) by the experience. She speaks of the self-portraits as follows:
This work revisits that world through the eyes of my 50-year-old self. It is a dialogue between two people, my self then and my self now.(Falconer. nd)
I once spent time living with a married couple, one of whom was subtly mentally abusive to the other. I couldn’t understand what I was witnessing nor why I felt so disturbed. In the pressure of the moment, I lacked the prerequisite language to formulate my thoughts. It wasn’t until I came across Falconer’s work that I could comprehend what was happening. The images were like visual ‘post-it notes’ upon which I could ‘write’ my thoughts and develop an understanding of the complex behaviours that I had witnessed. These are the most powerful images I have ever seen and have been hugely influential.
This is my attempt to describe what they mean to me.
Escaping from an abusive, alcoholic situation. Bars at the window signify feelings of imprisonment.
Junk food. Feeling of worthlessness. Discarded out on the street.
Feelings of struggling. Wasteground signifying trying to reach out for lost achievements. Books signify wasted chances.
Loss of identity. Unable to see who you are anymore.
Feelings of being disposed of, worthless, rubbish.
‘Who am I?’ Hidden face signifies hiding from reality. Concrete surroundings signify cold, dark emotions. Contemplating suicide maybe.
Head, top half looking out of harsh metal surrounding. Signifying my current reality.
Bottom half recalling lost happier times. Maybe I should have ‘smelt the roses’. Or maybe lost love.
Balancing. Trying to keep hold of yourself and stop yourself from falling or drowning.
Clothes. Part of you slowly drifting away.
Fingermarks of dirt, smeared over the failing you. Horrified that you are being pushed into the ground.
Hung out. Just being part of someone’s attire. Ready to be picked up and put down as part of their image.
Cowering as food thrown at you against or the wall. Arm up in defence. The shadow of yourself.
Being caught in a trap. Hanging in a dismal, unsafe environment.
Lost souls. Poppies. Snow signifies your purity. Birds swooping down, having your life ‘pecked out of you’, bit by bit.
Hoping to find a safe place. Holding on to the person you were.
Trapped. Can’t find way out. Scared of falling. Stuck between the darkness and the light. Crucifix signifying your belief and inner strength.
Feeling of being washed away. Getting sucked into a dirty hole. Or perhaps loss of control.
Drowning. Alcohol being either the abusive cause or your form of escapism.
Being blown away signifying decay or wasted life.
White clothes signifying the loss of her purity or naivety.
Slipping away. Being washed away in a torrent of abuse. Unable to keep hold.
Falling. Being pushed away. Being looked down upon.
Blood on face. Beaten down.
Feelings of suicide.
Falconer, M. (n.d.). Fellow Contemporary Portfolio: Maria Falconer FRPS. [online] The Royal Photographic Society. Available at: http://rps.org/technical/gallery?a=%7BFB5BF979-7778-4D8D-9B23-074EE834FDFE%7D [Accessed 4 Nov. 2019].