Elinor Carucci: Closer

My Mother’s Lips, 1997, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

Elinor Carucci’s photobook ‘Closer’ is like an open door into her life. The life she chooses to portray is her life with her family: her parents, her brother, her cousins and grandparents as well as her partner. In this she highlights her closest bonds, iconically her mother. Looking at the photographs there is an element of uncertainty of the nature of their relationship as mother and daughter. In society there is a ‘close’ relationship and then there’s being naked together. This argument is somewhat similar to that of Sally Mann with her photographs of her life with her children. In the first photograph the viewer opens up to is My Mother’s Lips with the scarlet red lipstick being the focal point of the frame. The deep red is symbolic of lust and love, and less of feeling secure and protected.

Yet, this leads onto why I think Elinor chose to include a three page long introduction to her book: to create a setting, an idea, before a viewer can judge what they see in the images as crude and not acceptable. Carucci aims to portray the “closeness, security, and warmth” of her relationships with particularly her mother. Carucci goes on to describe her way into photography how “In the first few years I was intuitive, even impulsive, in the way I shot” yet after she tried to stage past events to document her life she went back to this impulsive behaviour, introducing the camera into her family to give a sense of familiarity. This shows as the subjects are not uncomfortable by the behaviour of the lens.

“Ironically, the closer I got to the details, the more I zoomed in, the more universal the themes turned out to be”

My Mother’s Covered Belly, 1996, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

Following my thoughts on the first image of the book, the first photograph after the introduction somewhat consolidates this argument of a peculiar relationship of her mother’s underwear, with tights. I feel that this again has sexual connotations being such an intimate area, this is supported by the red nail polish which somewhat invites the viewer in to something that is not a mother.

Kiss, 1998, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

Yet, Carucci suggests that her life is shaped by all sorts of people and their relationships with each other: this close shot of her mother and father sharing an intimate moment is a nice pause in the book with the photograph bleeding over the gutter. Indeed, the literal closeness of the faces, hiding the identity of the couple, does indicate a more universal theme of love.

Sleep Marks, 1997, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

What strikes me the most in her work however, is the raw nature of sexual relationships and the vulnerability they pose. Sleep Marks is a photograph I am most drawn to, with the man nude, asleep and vulnerable. Yet the colours suggest warmth with the morning blues contrasting with how the natural light makes the oranges and reds of the skin really poignant.

Grandma’s Curtain, 1999, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

It’s rare in her book, but nonetheless interesting, to have a pause of something that is not a portrait, but an abstract view of how light is shaped by objects such as translucent curtains. Although it displays a haziness which could be related to sight or memory, it is a different medium for the viewer to appreciate.

My Father and I, 1999 and PMS, 1997, Closer, © Elinor Carucci

Finally, the ordering and placement of the images is interesting: some are double page spread; there is a collection of portrait and landscape as well as different ratios of rectangles and also in size. This means that the viewer can look at each image afresh without getting too warped into a continuum, like words in a book. The images above though are an interesting pair: Elinor appears in the right of the frame of both photographs. One with her father, and one with her husband. It suggests that the relationships she has with the two most important men in her life are very similar. However, again, comparing a lover to a father is something that is peculiar and quite disturbing for a reader.

People to say that you are attracted to people like your parents.

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