Tabitha Barnard – Cult of Womanhood

 

Tabitha Barnard was the recipient of the 2018 Fujifilm/Young Talent Award for this essay. This honor recognizes photographers 25 and under, granting them $10,000 from Fujifilm to continue the work.

 

Tabitha Barnard

Cult of Womanhood

[ FUJIFILM/YOUNG TALENT AWARD 2018 WINNER – $10,000 ] 

Growing up in a small town in rural Maine, my contact with others was limited. I was raised alongside three sisters and lived in a close-knit religious culture where sexuality was never mentioned. As children we created elaborate fantasy games and tried to find every Bible passage we could about powerful women and witches. The forbidden nature and the ritual of the occult fascinated us.

 

 

Our household was staunchly Christian, I witnessed the demonization of sexuality and femininity in our church, yet I was surrounded by powerful feminine energy. In Christianity, women are considered to be the weaker sex. Unable to even teach in the church. But it was widely accepted that all it took for a man’s morality to come into question was the presence of a sensual temptress. My sisters both loved and despised the story of Bathsheba for that same reason. When she was fourteen, my youngest sister called for a meeting between the four of us. Disclosing her secret relationship with another girl and her queerness. It was months longer until she told my parents. While she was accepted and loved in my family, the push-pull between existing as a queer woman in a religious community, especially during puberty, was a struggle. This struggle was played out on her body as she picked and scratched at her skin. Almost mimicking the blood and suffering we spoke of while taking communion.

 

 

For the last six years, I have made images that document my sisters in their unique transitions to womanhood. As a young woman, I watched while girls changed from children to objects sexualized by older men. My photographs explore religion and the community I created with my sisters, lifting a veil on a formerly intimate and private exchange between the four of us. In our religious cult of womanhood there exists a theater of eternal youth and femininity. We are confrontational while on display, finding our escape from this repression in the forests and seascapes of Maine.

 

Short Bio

Tabitha Barnard was born in Freedom, New Hampshire, in 1994. She is a photographer who grew up in rural Maine with three sisters. Growing up in a very Christian female-dominated family has had a huge influence on her work. She works primarily in digital and analog color photography, exploring themes of femininity, religion, and ritual. She received her Bachelor of Fine Art from Maine College of Art in the Spring of 2016. Her first solo exhibition opened in the summer of 2018 at Speedwell Projects in Portland Maine. Since then she was recognized as a finalist in the Lens Culture Art Photography competition and had work featured in various online magazines. In the spring of 2019 pieces from Tabitha’s longest ongoing series Cult of Womanhood will be included in the Art Photography show at Aperture gallery in New York. She currently works as the media technician at the Maine College of Art with hopes to apply to graduate school in the coming fall.

 

Related Links

tabithabarnard.com

 

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The Fujifilm/Young Talent Award is supported by Fujifilm

 

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