Woman Crush Wednesday: Susan Swihart
Interview by Yanika Anukulpun
Project: About Face
When I first saw your work, it reminds me to think of Diane Arbus' twins photographs. Could you tell me a little bit more how did you get the inspiration for this project?
Oh, thank you. I’m a big fan of Diane Arbus and I know she was interested in showing the differences in all people. This series is about one particular set of identical twins, my daughters, and the struggle and simultaneous beauty experienced growing up together. I always knew it would be a challenge for me to raise them and guide their own independence. To be able to support their separateness and also encourage their unique bond. My vision for this work is more about our connections as a family, my daughters' to each other and mine as their parent.
From your artist statement, you mentioned that there are the psychological components including the similarities and differences of your twin daughters. Could you explain more about your thoughts and feelings about the different contrast?
My daughters are similar because they look a lot alike and share a large portion of their DNA, of course. They are same-age sisters and share parents and a younger sibling. They also go to the same school and have many of the same friends. They are different people though with quite distinct personalities, and very individual hopes and fears. It's much less now than when they were younger, but I did find when we started this project, that other people had a tough time separating them. It was difficult for me when people wouldn't take the time to distinguish them from non-physical traits. That’s gotten easier, yet we face other challenges now that they’re teenagers!
How long had you worked on this project, and how could you direct them for the poses because your photos are very neutral?
We started making these images together when they were 8 and they’re now 14. As they've grown and all of our relationships change, the project has naturally evolved. When they were young, they were much more compliant! I would give them a prompt and let them express it. We don’t make as many images lately, but now I can explain the concept behind the image to them and they understand. They also have ideas and can express a feeling that we’ll turn into an image. It’s become much more collaborative.
WCW questionnaires (5 questions)
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach one, one – hour class on anything that would it be?
Hmm, if not photography, then home renovation. I love a good construction and design project. We recently purchased an 18th Century Farmhouse in Central Massachusetts, and I can’t wait to start renovating.
What is the most played song in your music library?
One of my kids is currently obsessed with Queen, so our summer car soundtrack is any one of their many hits.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
I’ve just started reading, Elizabeth Rosner’s “Survivor Café, The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory". She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. I’m intrigued by the concept that trauma is passed down in families through DNA. I’m creating new work about this.
How do you take your coffee?
No coffee for me. I'll have an extra-large cup of hot black tea with steamed almond milk, please!