Feature: “Split Tree Road”
Sharon Draghi is drawn to the allure of suburban and family life. In her project “Split Tree Road” Draghi documents her home in a series of tableaux that blurs the line of imagined moments and the real. Sparked by the beauty and menacing environment of suburban life, Draghi has been working on “Split Tree Road” for around six years.
Named after the street in which her family resides, “Split Tree Road” unveils a sense of quiet tension within Draghi’s own family. In her work, Draghi balances physical and emotional space in which she inhabits in her everyday life. Focusing on composition, gesture and lighting — Draghi creates a world that heightens the sense of drama in familiar moments.
Tell us more about yourself — what is your background? How did you become interested in photography?
I grew up in the southern part of Brooklyn, in a quiet and residential neighborhood alongside Jamaica Bay. There were loads of children nearby, and in those days we spent most of our free time playing on the streets or at each others’ houses. My love of photography began when I was in high school and came across a book by Henri Cartier-Bresson. He opened my eyes to the creative possibilities of photography, and since then I’ve been absorbed with and fascinated by the power of images, both still and moving.
How did “Split Tree Road” come about? How do you see it fitting in your larger body of work?
My overall practice comes from a very personal place. I’m most interested in making work that is intimate and emotionally charged. I like the idea of telling a story but giving enough space so that the viewer can decide what it’s about. For each project I work within the context of an overall narrative and make images that express certain ideas and feelings.
Split Tree Road began without thought, I just picked up the camera one day and began photographing my family. This project has been my way of making sense of my life. My family is precious to me and I feel this need to explore and to “document” our existence. Maybe that’s because I lost my father at an early age. In any event, the work is about many things — marriage and its challenges, boys growing into men, intimacy, aging, insecurities, dreams, desires, and my own feelings about women and gender roles. The project is also about the environment we live in, the suburbs, and how that brings context to our lives. And, as with all of my projects, I am looking for beauty in the ordinariness of daily life.
Does photographing your family create tensions in your day to day? How do they feel about the images that you’ve created for “Split Tree Road”?
Photographing my family has created some tensions. I try very hard to be sensitive and not overly intrusive. I always ask them if I can bring the camera out, and sometimes they just are not in the mood and I accept that. It’s been particularly challenging for my husband, who values his privacy. That being said, my family is very proud of the work and what it represents. They’ve been great collaborators.
Is there an image that is particularly hard to make in this series?
I have a few images in my mind that I haven’t made yet. They are all self-portraits. They’re hard because they’re self revealing and it’s not always easy, on an emotional level, for me to make pictures of myself.
When do you think you will stop photographing for this series?
I’ve been working on “Split Tree Road” for five years. Although I feel like I’ve completed a large portion of the work, I wouldn’t say that it is finished. I continue to observe things about my life and my family that are shifting and changing. However, my children are both in college and my older son will be graduating, so this chapter of our lives together will soon be ending.
Are you traveling with your family this year?
We are planning a trip to Southeast Asia this summer and are very excited about discovering this part of the world.
What is your favorite movie to watch with your family?
There is an animated film called The Triplets of Belleville that we all love-we first saw it when my boys were young and we’ve seen it a few times since. It’s about a Tour de France cyclist who gets kidnapped and his grandmother goes looking for him-it’s really strange and wonderful with practically no dialogue and an amazing musical soundtrack. Another great one we love is The Shining by Stanley Kubrick-it’s so visual and creepy and fun.