Douglas Stockdale on Sarah Malakoff’s Second Nature

Sarah Malakoff (b. 1972 Wellesley, MA and resides in Boston, MA) chose to photograph a subject that she knows well, the interior living spaces found in the greater Boston area where she was born and raised. Her pensive photographs are characterized by a warmth and intimacy. These are not the staged interior photographs found in advertisements or glossy interior decorating magazines so common in America. The beds are ruffled and unmade, a box of clothing lies haphazard under a bed, a board game is askew on top of a table, and there are particles of soot lying on top of the carpet in front of the blazing fire, leaves and debris on the kitchen floor adjacent to the sliding door and the many lounging animals, both real and inanimate. Nevertheless her interiors are still a bit too clean and tidy, bordering on sterile, perhaps more indicative of the person who resides there than the photographer.

USA –   Sarah Malakoff (b. 1972 Wellesley, MA and resides in Boston, MA) chose to photograph a subject that she knows well, the interior living spaces found in the greater Boston area where she was born and raised. Her pensive photographs are characterised by a warmth and intimacy. These are not the staged interior photographs found in advertisements or glossy interior decorating magazines so common in America. The beds are ruffled and unmade, a box of clothing lies haphazard under a bed, a board game is askew on top of a table, and there are particles of soot lying on top of the carpet in front of the blazing fire, leaves and debris on the kitchen floor adjacent to the sliding door and the many lounging animals, both real and inanimate. Nevertheless her interiors are still a bit too clean and tidy, bordering on sterile.   Sarah-Malakoff-Second-Nature-Feature                                                     Image © Sarah Malakoff These are homes, not houses, where people reside, as evidenced by the interiors. We are only indirectly introduced to the home owners by what and how they have chosen to decorate their residences. One might suspect that these homes are owned by cats and dogs, as these are the only ones present in Malakoff’s photographs. The inclusion of the cats and dogs are a subtle reminder that their owners, although out of sight, are not far off. Malakoff has chosen to photograph her interiors with a middle ground composition, not focusing on details or grand views. It may perhaps be a practical matter, as many of the older New England homes have smaller rooms, tight quarters to use the nautical term, as compared to the mini-mansions now being built today across America. New England borders the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and many of the founders of this region worked the boats and sea, thus the nautical theme a popular motif, such as a basement bar made out to resemble the prow of a boat. As such, this body of work is a study of identity, which in this case has a strong New England flavor. I recognize that these photographs are instilled with much of this regional essence and would appear much different if compared to home interiors found in the South, Midwest, Southwest or Pacific Coast of the United States.  

Sarah_Malakoff-Second_Nature_03Image ©  Sarah Malakoff

Malakoff provides us with an opportunity to make a leisurely tour while visiting these diverse residences and wonder about who has chosen these places to nest, what interesting places might lurk just outside the windows and what events may have transpired in these wonderful warm and inviting places. The hardcover book is nicely printed and bound in a way that allows the book to be opened fully without any image contest lost in the gutters. The interior photographs are either graced with a classic white margin, or a single image printed across a two page spread, with an edge bleed of three of the four sides.  Both image formats allows the photographs to be easily read.   Second Nature published by Charta  Douglas Stockdale is a photographer, author and writer when not working his day job.

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