Carla Shapiro

Rewriting Loss

September 9 – October 10, 2011

In honor of those who died on 9/11, I hand copied the obituaries of 2500 of the victims of the World Trade Center from The New York Times.

Each obituary was written in black ink on white vellum, a stiff translucent paper. I wrote for four hours a day for five months. As I wrote I became intrigued with the words that represented each person and reated a project that was full of peace rather than death. The handwritten pages were hung in the country air to weather away as the wind and sun faded the writing and the rain and snow washed them clean. Over time, as the written words washed away the papers became “prayer flags”. Prayer flags, originating in Tibet, are visual reminders of prayer; they are left to sway in the wind, and each snap and flutter is an utterance of prayer.

Over the course of one year, I photographed these obituaries – in early light, in darkness, in the rain, as the leaves fell, and as it snowed. They were photographed in stillness. They were photographed when it was hot and when it was cold, as they moved and as they froze. They were photographed with the rebirth of spring.

For twelve months the obituary-prayer flags hung in lines across the stream in my backyard in Chichester, New York. In each season they moved in the breeze, generating song throughout their movement, and creating patterns of light and dark as they became part of the life around them. Each day I saw a new story, as every sheet of vellum became free of its words and transformed into the pure whitness I waited for – my way of honoring those who had died.

– Carla Shapiro, 2011

Carla Shapiro was born in Manhattan. She is a Chichester-based visual artist who has been working in photography for over 25 years, creating bodies of work about women, aging, 9/11, beauty and decay. She holds a BFA from Syracuse University and currently teaches graduate students at the Pratt Institute Her work has been shown nationally and internationally. She has received the Fellowship Fund in 2003 from the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Golden Light Awards at Maine Photographic Workshops, New Jersey Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, NYFA SOS Grant, The O’Conner Foundation, and Pratt Institute. She has received residencies from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, among others.