I recently had the great honor to juror the Imagination exhibition that opens at the The A Smith Gallery today and runs through April 1st. The first place photograph, Revolutions in Green, was awarded to Yvette Meltzer for an image from her Revolutions series. I selected this work because she captured something ordinary and but able to make it extraordinary. As Yvette states, “Freshly washed laundry stirs in me a sense of hope with its freshness and renewal. Capturing the laundry revolving in the clothes dryer presented even more of a rebirth in its transformed state.”
Currently living in Evanston, Illinois, Yvette has been exploring photography for thirty years. Along with a career as an educator, conflict resolution specialist, mediator and mother, she continues to be inspired by the photographic world. Taking daily photographs for the last five years, Yvette is now exhibiting work that is a convergence of color, light, and form in the abstract.
Revolutions: Whether hanging on clotheslines or over rocks or from windows in Europe, drying laundry has long fascinated me. After taking a multitude of outdoor laundry images over the years, it was while in Chicago in February 2007 that I wondered where I might find laundry drying. My curiosity took me into a variety of Laundromats where I began taking photos.
I was drawn to the twirling colors of the laundry spinning in the dryers but I never imagined what I would ultimately find when I went to the computer to view these digital images of the laundry. Therein I saw faces and forms – both human and animal-like. And I was hooked. Thus was my laundry project born.
What has been most exciting for me is moving from capturing concrete laundry images to the abstract forms that have emerged on this journey. As Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” I believe that is what this series does. I start with fabric and a dryer, and in collaboration with my camera, we transform the reality.
Most people can’t fathom why I am taking photos of the dryers or clothes in a dryer. When I go into a Laundromat with my camera some are suspicious and some are even fearful. Believing I might be a government agent seeking to identify undocumented residents I have sometimes been asked to leave. Others personalize it and ask why I want to take pictures of their clothes. Why are you taking pictures of my clothes? one indignant woman asked me. Another woman shouted, “Don’t take my laundry!” behaving as if I were actually physically taking her clothes out of the dryer.
After having been told I was not allowed to photograph even my own laundry spinning in some Laundromats, and not even allowed entry with my camera to some other Laundromats, I have begun to carry a small portfolio with me with to show some of my dryer images to the Laundromat attendant and they will usually then grant me their permission to stay.
In the course of focusing on this laundry project, I have had a host of interesting conversations with customers, attendants and/or owners of the Laundromats. I enjoy photography as a vehicle to relationships. It is usually the children who are in the Laundromat with a family member that are the most curious and the most interested. That could be because they still have imagination!