“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.” – Carl Jung
These words grace the opening pages of Brittany Markert’s photobook “In Rooms Volume 2 (2016-2017).” They play an essential part in not only grasping the photographer’s intention behind the “In Rooms” series, but also in how the spectator connects to it. Psychoanalysis, repression, female objectification, mental illness and eroticism are just a few of the themes explored.
Recently, Lethal Amounts gallery hosted a lecture and pop-up exhibit by the artist. On display was “In Rooms”—a three-installment collection dating from 2014 to the present. Formatted like a personal diary, it is set in chronological order and exposes Markert’s psychological and emotional states in progressive stages. During the presentation, guests were given an intimate glimpse inside her creative process and personal evolvement, as well as the opportunity to view her portfolio of work up close.
Horror films, Markert recounted, left some of the earliest and most significant impressions on her adolescent mind. Movies such as “The Shining,” “Halloween” and “Nosferatu” sharpened her awareness to the arousal an audience experiences when viewing flesh, sex and death on screen. It is a similar stimulation of the senses that her photography incites.
As a model during her twenties, Markert posed solely on the opposite side of the lens—the object of someone else’s perspective. A brief stint in fashion roused her to the superficialities of this type of photography, where photoshop is used to transform your bodily and facial features to fit a particular mold. It was at this point she decided to pick up the camera and begin shooting. The California native uprooted herself to New York where she delved deeper into her craft, meeting collaborators and finding her voice as an artist. Now, Markert resides in New Orleans where she continues to create.
She works strictly in black and white, manipulating photos either in her darkroom or in her camera. Her aesthetic is reminiscent of Francesca Woodman, a photographer whose black and white imagery featured herself and female models as subjects. Similar to Woodman, Markert’s pictures depict figures distorted, obscured and bared in various manners. Much of her work contains nudity, which she prefers over the clothed body, as it can symbolize both vulnerability and invincibility. Contrary to her modeling days, Markert has complete control over how she appears in her photos.
As previously mentioned, there is a psychological factor to Brittany Markert’s creations, another parallel between her and Woodman. Francesca Woodman, who took her own life at the age of 22, explored the self and internal struggles through photography, presenting raw emotional states. Likewise, “In Rooms” navigates the terrain of the human psyche, addressing insanity, violence, sexuality, suicide and pleasure, topics that discomfort and are largely ignored by society.
One of the most profound elements represented is shadow work. In Jungian psychology, the shadow self, also referred to as the “Id,” is the part of our persona that we repress and lock away in our unconscious mind. “In Rooms” pushes not only the artist, but onlookers to confront this shadow self.
What demons are you hiding that you’re ashamed to encounter?
A key message is that it’s essential to embrace the darker aspects of our identities. What makes us feel broken can in turn make us feel whole again.
For the exhibit, photographs were arranged along walls in sequential order, beginning with work done in 2014 and continuing on to the most recent. As I walked the gallery, I saw haunted, shadowy figures, concealed faces, fully exposed flesh and images mirroring out-of-body experiences. Separately, the pieces were impactful, and collectively they revealed a story that is complex, uncanny and entrancing.
The photographic journal takes the voyeur on a cathartic journey, encouraging release of pent up tensions, guilt and shame. With “In Rooms,” Markert captures savagely beautiful and enigmatic states, recognizing and shedding light on the dualities that exist within.
Get more insight into Brittany Markert at her official website.
Visit the Lethal Amounts official website for news on upcoming events.
5 thoughts on “Shadow Selves: “In Rooms” by Brittany Markert”
Fascinating, Jennifer. Clearly, Markert understands that images, concepts and fantasies exert unparalleled power when they stir the darkest reaches shadowed away in our souls. If there’s nothing there to thrill, the images remain mere abstracts and thus, are forgettable.
Not so with the collection you’ve shown us. Markert’s vision taunts the spirits within.
Great find, as they all have been!
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Thank you so much! This exhibit introduced me to her work and I’m glad it did.
What an incredibly thoughtful article, well said free of pretension, full of hear.
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Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.