House of Stone: Home of Bricks

 

Victoria Fleischer
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2007

I was excited to work with Martha for an assignment intended to build and communicate a story about transience. After all, she has a nuanced story of shifting identities: did she consider herself to be Zimbabwean or American? Has she truly defined herself as a mother yet? Will her education give her the career she wants?

I started with the idea that the distinct and influential factors in her life established her identity. I soon realized that her identity was the unconscious impetus for these very events. She is unable to see her family in Zimbabwe because she wanted to see the world and she became a mother because, in spite of the fact that she did not want a child until she was thirty, she could not give up her baby. Her identity, although shifting with each of these major life events, also created the events that followed. She works hard now because, as she learned in Zimbabwe, she has the opportunity to make life easier for her daughter and herself in the future.

With a new understanding of Martha, a perception that strengthened as I formed a relationship with her, my method of photographing changed. I stopped capturing everything that occurred; I started to watch and wait. The more I met with Martha and the longer I spent with her, the fewer photographs I took. I was forced past the visual, towards the conceptual.

Ultimately, Martha?s personality made this project an eye opening experience for me. I was able to meet people and glimpse at a life with which I might never have had the opportunity to interact. During the time I spent with her, the strongest lesson I learned was the power of one?s perspective. She constructs her life around one simple and profound fact: she considers herself lucky. She wants to take advantage of each opportunity and very little halts her efforts. Her joy is visible in the photos taken of all the components of her life and in her honesty when she tells her story, illustrating her
optimism and persistent strength.