// Williamstown, MA //
Julia Matejcek is a photographer living in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. Her work is an exploration of how photographs can be used to reveal the truth or, alternatively, to obscure it. She works with themes of family, domesticity, and agriculture in an attempt to make visible the small, accepted acts of violence that take place in day-to-day life. She holds a BA in Studio Art and Biology from Williams College.
I began my 24/2 by taking some time the night before my project period to write down my general intention for the weekend. My goal was twofold: I wanted to just experiment and photograph things that caught my eye, and I also wanted to overcome my fear of photographing strangers. It turned out that having written down what exactly I was trying to do was really helpful, because when a new idea came along I could decide whether or not it felt aligned with my direction. That actually happened right away, as I set out on Saturday morning with the intention of driving to a garden center and photographing the customers getting lost in a plant jungle. On the way, I passed by lots of folks holding yard sales on their front lawns and felt an immediate pull to spend my time with them instead. Since the new idea seemed to get at what I was trying to do in an even more direct way, I changed my plan and turned around to visit the yard sales.
First, I met three siblings, all entering old age, who had just lost their mother. They were holding a yard sale to clean out her belongings that they had no use for. I asked if I could take their photo, and they all gathered together and smiled. I felt concerned that me shooting this occasion could be intrusive for them—a yard sale is probably not anyone’s proudest moment, and this one was laced with a huge sense of loss and sadness. But right then, one of the brothers began showing me his mother’s various possessions, including some white collars that she had crocheted for her children to wear for funerals. Of course, this object seemed so timely, yet it was so strange to see it laid out for sale along with Halloween decorations. It seemed meaningful to this stranger to be telling me this, and I took some photos of him showing me the collars. As I got ready to leave, the three siblings told me to come by again sometime if I was in the neighborhood.
The next yard sale I went to was a middle-aged man selling a few odds and ends, including an imposing wooden headboard. He wasn’t moving or anything, just selling things he didn’t need—and his apology that the headboard didn’t come with a good story made both of us laugh.
These interactions brought me such a sense of buoyancy, because they reflected back to me the meaning that I can bring to things by photographing them. I think the people I photographed, rather than feeling imposed upon, felt that being photographed at that particular moment in their lives meant something to them too. The power of the residency caught me off guard because, on paper, there wasn’t anything distinctly different about that particular weekend. I typed a plan into the OLAW page and emailed with Grace a bit beforehand, but for the project period it was still just me in my apartment, trying to find inspiration and to make things that felt meaningful. The residency kind of felt like magic, and I think that’s the power of the program: it’s just you making it all happen, and that means you can bring all of those realizations back into your life with you. Ideally, I think that’s what a residency does—gives you a new perspective on yourself and your practice that you can put into place when it’s just you again, staring at the blank page and deciding what comes next.