Source: Fraction Magazine
Darkness and Nothing More by Elizabeth M. Claffey
Darkness and Nothing More explores the nighttime landscape of family life, as well as identity formation and performance. At night, I check on my children over and over, at first because they require it but later because it soothes my own anxieties. After they fall asleep, I get to watch them at a distance – with my body intact, untouched, unsmothered – and see them, still. They seem small again. Their slow breaths fill me with warmth while slight movements challenge my nervous system for fear that I’ve been too brazen, lingered too long in this moment where everyone is here and safe. The familial labor and love that happens at night is incredibly intimate, and moving through darkness is a metaphor for parenthood itself. Nighttime is when the heart rate slows, body temperature drops, and our mammalian instincts for physical closeness heighten. The sensory longing for touch, the compression of another body, is what often wakes my children in the night and has us all moving through the dark to find one another.
On our way, I find small clues of their inner lives: rocks carefully placed throughout the hallway, ribbons mark the spaces between their fantasies. I photograph these still lives like they are clues to a larger mystery, evidence or communication of a story nobody will tell. At times, our bodies become the surprise revealed in the night because during these years, we are body on body on body, performing gestures that bring our bodies closer to each other and eventually, closer to ourselves, given the power for those gestures and movements to shape our identities. As this ongoing work develops, I turn my gaze toward my partner because intimacy is a significant part of our bond. These works are a way of reclaiming the experience of desire so often denied women in their postpartum lives despite how much that sensuality can reinforce the rich experience of family life.
As our daughters get older, they have become more nervous about nighttime. They too worry that something might go wrong, a mystery that is not their own might be lingering outside our door or in their closet. I tuck them in at night, promising to check on them, and tell them to rest assured. It’s Darkness and Nothing More.
Elizabeth M. Claffey lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
To view more of Elizabeth’s work, please visit her website.