A woman sits on a modernist daybed, its vivid red surface a cheery counterpoint to the faded floral housedress she wears, her lank hair and intense expression caught in afternoon light. It’s a perfect example of the brilliant photographs captured in Bastienne Schmidt’s latest book, Home Stills (Jovis, 2011).
From a cheap motel to a grand mansion to a basic ranch residence, Schmidt shows herself as a lone housewife in various locales throughout Long Island, NY, trying on different personalities by putting herself in diverse places. Separated behind lace scrims, busy at household chores, or with back to the camera, hand on a vacuum, Schmidt shows herself as a lonely “everywoman,” at home everywhere but nowhere at the same time.
Sounds depressing and overly artistic? It’s not. Instead, it’s a beautiful collection of photos with a compelling story to tell. Most of us feel displaced at times, unsure of our footing and perhaps a stranger in our own homes. Schmidt captures the moments of quietude, standing in the middle of a busy house, surrounded by often vivid colors and patterns and textiles, but always alone.
Drawing on the films of Wim Wenders and the artwork of Hokusai, Jan Vermeer, and Edward Hopper, among others, it’s a sublime and aching portrait of suburban solitude, and the kind of book that reads like a movie you come back to again and again.