by Elinor Carucci
Chronicle Books, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 23rd 2003
Closer is an extraordinary
collection of photographs of Elinor Carucci's family. It is not like Richard Billingham's Ray's a Laugh, exposing
the secrets and shocking behavior of the family. It is rather a series capturing her family at odd moments of
intimacy. Carucci's relationship with
her mother is central, showing how she identifies with and loves her
mother. In "Mother puts on my
lipstick, 1993" we see her mother nurturing her daughter, who is 22 at the
time of the photograph. In "My
mother's back, 1996" we see the fading imprint, probably of a bathing
suit, on her mother's skin. In "My
mother and I, 1996," the two women are lying on a bed together. Her mother, lying on her back looking a
little preoccupied, wears a nightdress, while Carucci is just wearing
underwear, and is snuggling up to her mother.
Their relationship is close, and certainly, her mother shows a tolerance
for being photographed close up that most other mothers would probably not
Carucci takes pictures of small
details that most people would not notice or maybe would not want to
notice. "Zipper mark, 1999"
is reminiscent of a fossil record of an ancient fish. "Oral surgery, 2000" shows streaks of saliva mixed with
blood at the bottom of a bathroom sink.
"Stress marks, 1999" shows the indentations from where she
pressed her nails into her own hand.
There is a slightly studied artfulness to such images, yet in the
context of her work as a whole, they provide a sense of the images which might
fleetingly strike one as moving.
Another theme in this collection is
the relationship between husband and wife.
The cover picture shows her husband Eran gazing into the camera lens
over Carucci's nude body. "Wedding
rings, 1999" show their torsos in a bath as they lie with their heads at
opposite ends. "Bite #1,
2000" has her mother and father sitting on a bed, her father in his
boxers, her mother in a black dress, playfully biting her husband's arm. "Mom touches father, 2000" is
another moment of closeness, with her father looking into the lens, and her
mother, with her head on her husband's chest, reaching up and holding his
cheek. In "I hold Eran's wounded
hand, 1998," we see the six stitches in his middle finger and we get a
sense of the tenderness between her and her husband.
One feature that makes Closer
unusual is the openness of the family.
Her parents seem comfortable with Carucci's nakedness, and even to be
photographed undressed themselves. Her
husband Eran lies with his head in his father's lap and his father's arm
resting on his shoulder. Her own father
touches her hair lovingly but also with curiosity. Most families I know don't have the same casual intimacy once the
children are adults, although there maybe an element of cultural difference
here. It may be relevant that her
family is from Israel.
Carucci's photographs are unique as
a portrait of a family – no other photographer has done similar work. There's a sense of emotional poise to the
work, and some might wish for greater urgency or drama to reveal how the family
copes in crisis. However, Carucci is a
young photographer, and there is plenty of time for her to expand the scope of
her work. Closer is an
impressive first book.
Link: Elinor Carucci website
© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical
issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.