I made the first the Cellar Door picture in May, 2001, as a homage to the famous Alfred Steiglitz portrait of Georgia Engelhard. We had just celebrated Emma’s sixth birthday with a party in the backyard. Emma climbed up on the old cellar door; I was reminded of Steiglitz's photograph... and so it began.
It wasn’t until a year had gone by that I thought to continue the series, at first once a year and then once every season or so. Emma is now twenty-one years old and the photographs span more than a decade. We see Emma grow as the state of the house and garden change with her. My subjects here are emerging feminine identity, memory andthe passage of time. I asked Emma about her experience of the series and her response was a revelation to me.
Emma writes: "Over the years, my mom persuaded me with various incentives to climb up onto the cellar door to take photos; I remember resisting and arguing with her every time. I am grateful that she didn’t give up or give into my protests, especially during my angsty teenage years. Now when I look at the Cellar Door series I finally see what she always saw— a unique, meaningful compilation of my childhood and how I became the woman I am today. I remember who I was when she captured every image and why I chose each outfit for the series. When I look back on the Cellar Door Series I see the beginning of my love for sports that continues to this day; the comfort I felt as a “tomboy” skater girl at Montessori school; the intense pressure to act feminine and heterosexual at Catholic middle school; several stages in the battle against my eating disorder; and my slow acceptance of my lesbian identity. Individually, each Cellar Door image evokes touching memories, yet the beauty of my Mom’s vision lies within the series' collective power to reveal my personal growth and experience in a profound way."