Melissa Shook (1939-2020), Untitled (Cape Cod, Massachusetts), ca. 1971, gelatin silver print, 7 x 7 in. (17.8 x 17.8 cm)
Melissa Shook: Krissy’s Present
Closing Saturday, January 20, 2024
24 East 64th Street
Closing tomorrow, Krissy’s Present features 30 black-and-white photographs made between 1965 and 1983 by the late American artist Melissa Shook (1939-2020).
In the mid-1960s Shook, a single mother, began photographing her mixed-race infant daughter Kristina – “Krissy.” Krissy recalls she could think of no other way to have grown up with her mother, holding the camera and photographing her all the time. “My earliest memories are of being photographed with my friends on the Lower East Side of Manhattan—running naked on the street or playing games in my friends’ apartments. My mother Melissa chasing after us—not interrupting us –clicking away with her camera, an extension of her.”
Shook later realized that taking her daughter’s images constantly was an obsession to make up for her lost childhood, given that her mother died when she was twelve, and she had amnesia regarding her mother and her entire childhood. Although photographing family members had been a universal practice, few photographers before Shook explored the depth and complexity of motherhood and childhood as artistic subjects from the photographer’s firsthand experience. From an infant girl with curly hair playing with toys to a young woman wearing a dressy veiled hat, Krissy was meticulously recorded growing over time, finally becoming independent and leaving her mother’s care and protection.
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