12 x 12
On roughly the same day each month for more than 16 years, I have made a full body portrait of my daughter, Rosalee, on a black backdrop, spanning from newborn to, now, a young woman. The project, first exhibited in early 2014, shortly after my daughter Rosalee turned 12, consisted of 144 8” x 10” tintype plates. While this started out as something I intended to pursue only during my daughter’s first year of life, it quickly developed into a compulsion of record-keeping, which also includes notebooks full of writing and drawings.
Many people are curious about my daughter’s cooperation in all of this. It was not until she asked a classmate when she was little when their “Portrait Day” was that she had any inkling that other children were not compelled to sit for monthly portraits as a matter of being alive. Both she and my husband are (sometimes reluctant) collaborators. My vision is to create a consistent and authentic record of a single individual’s passage not just from birth through adolescence, but over the course of a life time—for as long as it can be sustained. It is not so important that I make these, only that the project continues, perhaps even by (sometimes reluctant) grandchildren or other collaborators.
This project is an archive of tintypes not for its own sake, but because in the now largely forgotten vernacular, bigger tintypes were often copies of smaller tintypes, intended to be framed and placed on view—often of someone who was deceased. So they are a sort of signifier of passing. When these plates have been exhibited, I have also displayed alongside this personal archive a small sampling of large copy tintypes of babies that I have collected over the years. Many of these include clear indications that they are copies. It is not uncommon to be able to see nails around the periphery, holding the smaller plate in place. Sometimes they have been re-photographed in the original mat, which is evident. Often they are retouched with parts of the image background altered and details painted in. More than likely this made the portrait into more of a small painting to be put on permanent display.