I reached a point in my life when all the things I knew to be true – the entire structure, the scaffolding of my life seemed to disappear. I felt something was lost. I was no longer the same person I was when I entered motherhood. With children growing up and needing less, the person I was seemed irrelevant and out of place.
Victorian-era mourners often used hair tresses to make mementoes, art, and sculptures. The custom of keeping a lock of a child’s hair, or one’s own shorn locks as a memento, is a remnant from this time.
I use hair to honour and say goodbye to past parts of myself. These images address fertility, sexuality, creativity, nurturing, harmony, and discord. Above all, these images of elaborate hair sculptures constructed in the studio – are a testament to change, recording metamorphosis from a past fractured self to an integrated self-realised woman.
Rachel Portesi holds a BA in Sociology and Photography and now lives with her family in Vermont.
Working as a black and white documentary photographer, she acquired her first Polaroid Land camera in 1991, complementing her work.
A decade later, after moving to New York City and having no access to a darkroom, Portesi’s practice shifted exclusively to the immediacy of the Polaroid. This led her to explore an even more finicky and time-consuming way of making ‘instant pictures’ — the wet plate collodion tintype.
Portesi’s work has been exhibited throughout New England and New York and written about in Vogue, Forbes, and Musée magazines. Her recent work examines how motherhood and ageing redefine female identity.
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