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Courtney Eldridge

And What of Shadows?

Ghostly, yes, that’s one word that came to mind the first time I saw Lauren Smart’s photography. But there was something familiar, warm, almost, about her figures, these specters. She plays with role reversals quite a bit in that in her pictures, ghosts are very human, really, in how fragile they are, while her human subjects look more lost and isolated than their shadows. That’s it, I think: in Lauren’s pictures, humans seem lost and ghosts seem found. And it’s not easy to tell one from the other, at times.

What came to mind from the first picture of hers I ever saw, was about ghosts on the inside. And it’s what I thought about throughout the past week, the idea that we’re haunted on the inside, internally, not externally. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to convince anyone else of their existence, because ghosts are a private matter? I don’t know about that, but that’s what I wanted to play with, looking through the series of images Lauren sent me for this collaboration.

Her pictures always remind me of all the times you see something out of the corner of your eye, thinking it’s one thing, and seeing that thing so clearly in your mind’s eye, but you’re too afraid to voice, to tell. Because you know how crazy it would sound, to say what you thought you saw—what you did see—that you immediately dismiss it. It’s some random act of trompe l’oie, right. Whatever it is, those are the moments that Lauren captures.

Even so, I don’t think of Lauren as telling ghost stories with her images, but rather, she’s simply using her photography to document the lives of shadows, whether internal or external. And again, looking at her pictures, it can be so hard to tell those sides apart. And really, the constant conflict her images question, between seeing with our eyes and seeing with our imaginations—I felt a real connection to those questions, with this story in mind.

That’s why, from the first time I saw Lauren’s work, last year, I knew I wanted to work with her. I think I saw two pictures, and I knew, because, barely twenty years old, and already, Lauren has such firm grasp of this territory, these shadow lands in our living rooms, our bedrooms. It’s so genuine for Lauren, too, where she’s taking her work, really continuing to push forward in her own direction, and that’s always humbling to watch. Especially humbling to work with.

Every collaboration is challenging, and Lauren was most certainly no exception. Lauren’s pictures embody that dreamlike/ghostlike/shadowy place of this story that I’d wanted to visit from the beginning, come what may. And, in addition to being so totally professional and on the ball with our collaboration, Lauren’s work kept me honest, as well. No small feat, trying to tell a ghost story. Thank you, Lauren, very much.

C.E.

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