Photographer Susan Borowitz is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay. From the series ‘Empty Nest’. To see Susan’s body of work, click on any image.
While youth follows a process of accumulation—marriage, children, a new home—middle age tends to be the point at which acquisitions level off and loss begins. Some loss, such as death or divorce, is rightly viewed as a tragic event; however, the smaller losses that walk hand-in-hand with aging have their own weight that, while not easy to bear, are not met with the same public sympathy as the more obviously tragic ones.
Among those smaller privations, such as vanishing beauty and eroding health, the feeling of obsolescence that accompanies children leaving the family home to start their own lives is complex and bittersweet. While rewarding to know that your children are happily launched, it can also bring sensations of abandonment, feeling rudderless, with lack of purpose and reduced identity.
Empty Nest tracks a woman who, with the exit of her children into their own lives, can’t accept her changing role and replaces her kids with mannequins and other things as she clearly starts to break down and lose it. When I created these images, I was going through my own Empty Nest moment as a divorcee with my youngest leaving for college and I thought that a photo project could help me deal with the loss I was feeling by documenting my emotions. As a former television sitcom writer, I intended to imbue many of the photos with an air of comedy, but when I realized that my best images were developed in a crucible of humor and pathos, I found my style. Now I strive to create images that work on many levels: aesthetic, humorous, as well as psychological.
I use self-portraiture in my work as a way to acknowledge that these series come from a very personal place. Since Empty Nest came from my own feelings of obsolescence, it was imperative that the series was done as a sequence of self-portraiture as these feelings that I was trying to translate were mine. Self-portraiture seemed the only honest way to artistically express these emotions, but at the same time, I try to take on an “everywoman” role so that others who are suffering, can find a kindred soul, if not solace in my work.
All images and text © Susan Borowitz
By Susan Borowitz
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