“When I moved to Scarsdale, I was struck by these imposing and mysterious houses lit up at night. It made me wonder what hidden stories, what secrets were going on behind closed doors,” explains Brooklyn-born photographer Sharon Draghi. Located in Westchester County, about 25 miles north of New York City, Scarsdale is the suburban town where Sharon has lived with her husband and two sons since 2007.
Having spent the previous 12 years in Paris, Sharon was inspired by her new setting in the quiet suburb, to create her own story and depict the “mystery and drama but also portray the depths of love and tenderness,” that exist in these docile towns. She’s now been working on Split Tree Road, a photographic series documenting her family and the place that they live, for five years.
The ongoing project features landscapes, interior settings and intimate portraits of her husband and sons, often with strange compositions that create an atmosphere of unease or solitude. “My practice comes from a very personal place. I make work that is intimate and emotionally charged but also somewhat ambiguous,” she says. Split Tree Road is certainly no different, exploring “marriage and its challenges, boys growing into men, intimacy, ageing, insecurities, dreams and desires,” and how these topics are shaped by the context of where they live.
Sharon attributes this compulsion to explore and document her family to the loss of her father at an early age, prompting her to “capture moments and to freeze time – to keep what will inevitably change.” The images are not purely documentary, but instead are a fusion of reality with some level of fantasy that tell the story Sharon wants to tell – “it is true but it’s not necessarily the entire story,” she explains.
This mixture of real and staged imagery allows her to withhold information and create both physical and emotional space within a photo, inviting a viewer to input their own sense of narrative. Physical space is determined simply by how close or far away the camera is from the subject. Emotional space, however, can be based on a gesture, expression or the positioning of the subject in relation to others or the environment. Sharon explains how “it all comes down to the specific choices I make with regard to composition, lighting, time of day and mood. Many of the images are lone portraits and many were taken at night to heighten a sense of isolation.”
Isolation is a theme that reoccurs throughout the series – photographs show solemn scenes that feel devoid of life despite their inclusion of people. “The suburbs can be breathtakingly beautiful and sinister at the same time, and I wanted to show both the peace and isolation that one can feel living out here,” she says, adding that, “through the work I tell a story that is personal, but most importantly, universal, as it comments of the drama and complexities of everyday life.”
A selection of Split Tree Road will be on display at Foley Gallery in New York from 29 November as part of Mirror, Mirror which will remain open until 7 January 2018.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.