A Conversation with Alison Malone: “Let your eyes tell the story of who you are”
December 19, 2014
In 2007 photographer Alison Malone embarked on a project of taking portraits of present-day Job’s Daughters and their meeting places. Familiar with the group as a former member, Malone had found the experience to be intense as a child, yet increasingly fascinating to consider as an adult. With her photographs, Malone and her subjects—working together—offer an insider’s view of a modern Masonic youth organization. "The Daughters of Job: Photographs by Alison Malone" will be on display at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library from December 13, 2014, through December 12, 2015. We sat down to talk with Malone about her project earlier this month.
Over time, what have you learned from this project?
AM: So many things—this project confirmed my feeling that in the present day when much social interaction is not face to face, girls were drawn to actual physical meetings. They derive so much joy from being more than Facebook friends. They call each other sister. I believe the group will persevere because of the girls’ desire to meet and know each other. They have also told me that in meetings you learn to take ownership of what you say when you are all together.
What has surprised you about this project?
AM: That the girls exist in a duality. They rigorously follow ritual and take pride in their ritual work. But at the same time, they do pranks—they shorted the sheets on my bed—act goofy and are silly. They are able to be both responsible and behave like girls.
What do you hope to achieve by having the Daughters of Job photographs on display at the Museum?
AM: I set out to describe a place and time in the organization. I hope that, for the girls, it is a validating moment. I also hope that other girls will see it and that the project will raise awareness and help people understand what Freemasonry is about, including the sense of community and the moral structure. I really want people, both inside and outside the Masonic family, to see how the girls add intention to the spaces they create for their ritual. I took clean photographs of the spaces, to help show the pride they take in their spaces.
How are the girls you photographed involved in the process of your taking their portrait?
AM: With the girls that choose to be involved in the project, I work with them in a quiet space. Before we start, I explain the project. We discuss that this kind of photograph is not posed and is not a performance. I show them examples of portraits taken of men and talk about the history of portraiture, explaining the idea that, in the past, having a portrait made was a rare occasion. I ask them, how do you want to be remembered? As brave, confident, strong? I love watching them think about this powerful thought. I also tell them to let your eyes tell the story of who you are. I want them to be willing to bring the experience of who they are at that place and age. I love finding the moment when they become more than what is expected of them.
In working on this project Malone shot with Fuji film using medium format cameras with 6" x7” film for the portraits and large format cameras with 4" x 5” film for the architecture. To produce the prints, she created high resolution drum scans of all of the negatives to make large format archival ink jet prints of the final product.
Photo credit: Alison Malone. Photograph by Rik Sferra.