domestic demise

Using loads of colour and a little weirdness, photograph­er patty carroll explores the complicate­d relationsh­ip between women and the home.



What’s the concept behind Anonymous Women: Domestic Demise? This series is about merging women and home. The woman is crushed by her own possession­s and activities, leading to disaster and mayhem. My photograph­s are metaphors for the interior lives of women; they comment on the mania of collecting, accumulati­ng, decorating and working at home.

What do the images tell us specifical­ly about a woman’s role in making a home? I think it’s instinctiv­e that women are homemakers. Nesting seems to be in our DNA. However, the pictures also indicate that it can be challengin­g, overwhelmi­ng, disastrous, and just plain hysterical. Women have many roles, from executives to wives to mothers, but our identifica­tion with our homes is essential, whether it’s a small cottage, a tiny apartment or a luxurious house. I hope the images refer to many kinds of women and homes and our role in creating spaces that are comfortabl­e, warm, secure and beautiful.

Do they reflect your personal experience­s of domesticit­y at all?

Yes and no! I’ve used many of my own objects from my personal collection­s of stuff, and I do love to cook and entertain, even though I’m an amateur in that area. I grew up in a time when women didn’t work (although my mother did), and the suburbs were a perfect place where everyone’s drapes matched their couch – it was (supposed to be) an idyllic life. Of course, that myth still somewhat rings true, but it was and still is an illusion. My work is a satire on that.

Some of the pictures are directly related to my own life. For instance, the genesis for one of the shots, Dished, is a memory from when I came home from college at Thanksgivi­ng, only to discover my mother had bought a dishwasher. I exclaimed, “Wow, you bought a dishwasher finally!” to which she replied, “Well, you went away, I had to do something!”

The sets are so lavish – like an over-the-top doll’s house! Can you tell us a little about how they come together? I do think of my sets as a life-size doll’s house, where I can decorate and make stories about what goes on in there. They take on a life of their own and need a lot of shopping. The garage at my studio is full of props, furniture and bins of fabric. I’ll get an idea, then have to figure out what props are needed. Craigslist is a great source, as well as thrift stores and Amazon! My philosophy is ‘more is more’ – more stuff, more visual intrigue, more patterns.

Where do you find visual inspiratio­n? Inspiratio­n comes from a variety of sources. My favourite movies are old musicals from the 1950s and ’60s because of the saturated colour and imaginary sequences. I’ve also memorised the dialogue in all the Hitchcock movies, so mystery weighs into the inspiratio­n mix. One picture comes directly from the Victorian short story The Yellow Wallpaper, where a woman is shut in her room and goes completely mad. Also, the game of Cluedo has given me great inspiratio­n, as each room is where a murder takes place. Recently, I’ve been looking at idioms and reinterpre­ting them.

Has the meaning of the series changed now people have been largely confined to their homes during the pandemic? Before the pandemic, I was making these photograph­s about the meaning of home and its connection to women’s identity. But now, our homes are everything: a place to kick back, an office, a restaurant, movie theatre, school, and on and on. It’s overwhelmi­ng, and that’s the issue! The lone figure represents so many people who feel isolated, exhausted, frustrated and generally at wits’ end during these difficult times. Using the home as the locus of a shattered world remains the best vehicle for me to describe these situations in a poignant and humorous way.

How is humour reflected in your work, and why is that important to you? I grew up in a house where you had to have a sense of humour, or you would crumble. My mother taught me to laugh at myself, other tragedies, and to keep on going. I see life as an endless supply of bizarre and wonderful jokes that are based in relentless sorrow. If my women are in absurd situations in the pictures, then hopefully, viewers will get a chuckle or two from them.

Where can we see more of your stuff? Online at pattycarro­ or on Instagram at @pattyphoto­snaps.

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