Woman Crush Wednesday: Melissa Spitz
Interview by Hallie Neely
Melissa Spitz is a working photographer from St. Louis, Missouri, who is now based in New York City. In her series You Have Nothing To Worry About, Melissa photographs her mother, who struggles with ever-changing diagnoses of mental illness and substance-abuse. In her artist statement, she writes "By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an on going conversation." You can check out more of her work here.
At what point did you decide to begin documenting your mother?
I started the project in 2009 as an assignment during my undergraduate degree.
Your images of your mother are almost all eye-level with her, did you do this intentionally to emphasize the concept of conversation?
Very funny you ask. I am actually extremely short, like 4'11. She is also very short and it is just how the shots frame up. I do think her eyes are very telling of her level of intoxication so I do try to focus on them often.
This series acts as a conversation between you and your mother's lifestyle and diagnoses, but also opens a conversation about mental illness and substance abuse within families. What was it like for you to be the one to open this discussion to your audience?
It was very scary at first but now feels very liberating. When you grow up with someone like this in your family you feel ashamed and embarrassed. Putting it all out there was a way for me to decide how this would affect me in the long run.
Family is a common subject to touch upon during the holiday season. Can you talk about the level of trust you and your mother have with each other that has allowed you to make these photos in the first place?
I am not sure if my mother trusts me... but she enjoys the attention and loves having her story told. I also don't trust her... I would never let her drive me in a car and she is not allowed to make medical decisions for me. She let me take the photos because I am her daughter. I started taking the photos because I love her regardless of the pain she has caused me and wanted to hold on to something. We started making these photos together because her life and our relationship were at rock bottom. The pictures are us trying to make up for lost time and put the pieces back together.
Is it safe to assume you'll continue to add to this series, or has it been completed?
Yes, I plan on photographing my mother for the rest of her life.
How would you describe your creative process in one word?
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
Dog Breeds 101
What was the last book you read, or film you saw, that inspired you?
Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur and Kate McKinnon singing Hallelujah
What is the most played song in your music library?
Mama, You Been On My Mind, Bob Dylan (but no relation to my mom :D)
How do you take your coffee?
Cream and sugar, please.