In the early stages of the pandemic, when the world went into lockdown, the photographer Lisa Sorgini felt a strange sense of familiarity in the eeriness and the unease. It reminded her, she realized, of what it felt like to become a mother: the world suddenly changed, time passing as if on a different plane. This was the birth of inspiration for her series Behind Glass, newly presented in an online exhibition curated by Bill Shapiro, Blind Magazine contributor and former editor-in-chief of LIFE Magazine.
Predominantly photographed through windows, “Behind Glass” shows mothers and children through panes of glass, reflecting glints of the outside world around them. The images are tender, yet much like quarantine, there’s a slightly ominous sense of being trapped, too. “The glass can be viewed in two ways,” said Sorgini in a statement. “It can be interpreted as a protector from the outside world, keeping those behind it safe but it can also create distance, removing and isolating the subjects from any sort of connection.”
Imbued with earthen tones, a golden-brown luster permeates each of the photographs. There’s an emphasis on the natural world, whether caught in reflections or taken outside; one such image shows only the shadow of a child against the fence, the small hand reaching for a flower. There are also Caravaggian tableaus, a still life of Bonne Maman jam jars, slices of watermelon, and dried flowers all washed in that same golden light, as a young child with a mop of blonde hair reaches for the fruit. “Her pictures carry a distinct sense of timelessness. To me, they feel like memory itself,” says Shapiro of Sorgini’s work.
Sorgini intended to capture the world as it looks to a new mother—at once expanded and contracted—but she also captured the way the world looks through the child’s eyes, with a sense of wonder and awe. There’s the beauty of the swan on the lake, or the white peacock with feathers fanned out; there’s the green insect, designed to blend into the leaves he lives in, sitting across the palm of a hand. They are the things we often see, but as we age, have become inured to their majesty.
But ultimately, Sorgini photographed what she herself was missing as a new mother, what she would have wanted to see. “When my son was first born, and still now 6 years on, I have often felt alienated by the lack of representation of the complexities of motherhood. Society is at large obsessed with youth and the experiences of adolescence,” she said in a statement. “And yet Matrescence is as significant in the vast changes that occur but the availability to see a range of motherhood experiences were not visible to me as a new mother. I wanted to explore this honestly and authentically to my experience.”
And while Sorgini’s experience may not reflect everyone’s, there’s still a sense of deep nostalgia that occurs when looking at these images; a longing for those moments of tenderness and togetherness, and seeing the glory of the world and all of the wild things in it.
Exhibition: “Lisa Sorgini Behind Glass”, online at Homecoming Gallery.