Collector Daily, October 2011
Elinor Carucci’s images of her life as a young mother have an unadorned bluntness that is alternately tender and disconcerting. The harsh realities of her pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, and early motherhood have an honest intensity that is often uncomfortable to watch, her private struggles splashed across the gallery with startling vulnerability. The pictures often center on physical skin to skin touches between herself and her children, getting up close and personal in capturing small moments of intimacy.
Given a few emotion-heavy pictures of her twins with runny noses, bruised lips and crying eyes, I can see how some have drawn a superficial parallel between this work and that of Sally Mann. But I think that’s a significant misreading of what’s going on. These pictures are almost entirely about the mother; even the images which only show the kids are really indirect portraits of Carucci and how she is feeling and reacting, examining her perspective of being stretched to the breaking point. We travel the entire road from her bulging belly and hospital gown to the c-section scars and the breast feeding harness, and her acute closeness and protectiveness as a mother is reflected in every gesture and touch, even when the sense of being exhausted and overwhelmed takes over.
These photographs have a potency and extremity that will be too much for some; Carucci’s directness certainly has the ability to stun and agitate. But this high-strung reality is what makes the pictures so successful; she’s crossed into territory where the truth is laid bare, where its tough combination of boundless love and draining weariness is exposed. You may decide that an image of her belly after giving birth isn’t something you want to hang on your wall, but the authenticity of her experience is joltingly memorable.
The Wall Street Journal, October 2011
Figurines of pregnant women are among the most common artifacts from the Paleolithic era and, whatever their original purpose, they still have the power to affect us. So do Elinor Carucci’s intimate photographs of herself pregnant, and with her infant twins after their birth. Ms. Carucci herself seems somewhat confounded by her condition. In “Feeling me” (2004), she shows herself naked, posed as an odalisque against a black background with her husband’s hand (all we see of him) resting on her distended belly. Her expression is contemplative. Whether she is thinking of the past, and the circumstances that led to her present condition, or of the several imaginable futures ahead, it is impossible to tell.
Ms. Carucci makes frequent use of close-ups, as in “My belly after giving birth and c section” (2004). It starts below her waist with strips of plastic adhesive on her incision; includes stretch marks around her belly button; and ends just above her engorged breasts, whose enlarged nipples appear as startled eyes. There are also extreme close-ups: The 17-by-22-inch print of “Bruised mouth” (2007) is filled with a child’s lips so we can see the swelling on the lower left. The camera is close enough to “Emmanuelle having her hair cut” (2007) for us to see the tiny bits of cut hair on her forehead. And it is a challenge for anyone not the subject’s mother to love the river of mucus in “Eden crying #3″ (2006).
The New Yorker, September 2011
For two decades now, Carucci has made her private life public, turning her camera on herself and her immediate family—probing, and often restaging, the most intimate moments. “Born,” her latest series of large-scale color images, concerns motherhood, including her pregnancy, the birth of her twins, and the pleasures and terrors of raising children. Sally Mann has explored much of this territory with similar frankness and wit, but Carucci stakes her own claim on it, combining documentary-style immediacy and quasi-cinematic production values. The results are startlingly, exhilaratingly naked, and not just because the family appears nude in nearly every picture.