Lisa Lindvay had always photographed her sister and two brothers. But when their mother's health began to deteriorate, Lindvay's lens and subjects became a filter through which she could explore and try to cope with the devastating effects of mental illness.
You won't see Lindvay's mother in any of the photos in her ongoing project Hold Together. "She was a ghost of herself. She was not the woman we knew to be our mother," she said in an interview. And yet she influences every frame of Lindvay's emotionally taut, beautifully intimate work. A confronting stare, the scattered remnants of everyday life, those familiar-looking poses, all expose the rippling impact an illness has on the physical and emotional well-being of the family.
"When I began photographing my father and siblings, I was subconsciously posing them as the religious icons that appeared over and over in my Catholic schooling," Lindvay says. "Most Christian iconography pictures those who are suffering or experiencing hardships. [My] photographs became a play off the way this iconography romanticizes and sanctifies suffering."
Lindvay became more deliberate in selecting reference images for her family's gestures. She continued to borrow from religious works, but also experimented with historical references as well as pop culture (the scantily clad woman lying playfully on her stomach, for example).
Over a five-year period, the project evolved into an exploration of identity — how illness began to shape and alter each family member and their relationship to one other. And in the context of ordinary life, those iconic poses give voice to the family's quiet suffering. "Having gone through this experience," she says, "I have realized that my mother's issues with her mental health have affected all of us and I think this is apparent in the photographs."
Lindvay has found some comfort in revealing her family's entropy, however. "When we share this side of ourselves, people are more often empathetic than anything else," she says.