By Jessica Ladd, PRC Fall 2012 Intern
The ambiance that accompanies this black and white photograph by Vivien Goldman is one of tranquility and peace. The viewer is drawn to the center, the focal point of the image, a window framed by a simple lace curtain. It’s sheer, semi-translucent lace is almost ghost-like, illuminating a soft patch of light that shines through the bottom section of the rectangular window. This light casts shadows that reflect onto the surrounding walls, creating different levels of white and gray. The curtain itself has a delicate crosshatched pattern that can be observed in the upper portion of the window. Its swag is draped gently over the top windowpane, creating a delicate curve that adds a level of elegance to the already beautiful curtain.
The paint that once coated the walls and ceiling surrounding the window is now severely chipped and peeling. Cracks in the paint create giant Xs that travel from one section of the wall to another like veins. In the upper left corner, almost all of the paint is gone, exposing the concrete wall that it once covered. This bare wall almost serves as an omen to the walls that are still mostly coated in flaking paint. With time, they too will be bare.
My eyes were first drawn to the window in this photograph. Serving as the focal point of the image, it stands out in more ways than one. Some might argue that the window is holding the room together because it is the only thing that appears structurally sound. Symbolically, it represents a source of strength and light, and it is because of this light from the window that the walls are even visible. It gives them their own voice when they are too frail to speak.
While I was immediately drawn to the window, the surrounding walls also play an important role in the message of this photograph. While the window represents strength, the aging walls are a symbol of weakness and darkness. In a way, I feel that the walls are almost trying to get as close to the window as possible because it exudes such a powerful force.
Yet another interesting aspect of this piece is that it combines two things that would not often be seen together. When we think of lace, we might picture something dainty, delicate, and feminine. Because of these qualities, we might think that it belongs in a more elegant setting. Walls with peeling paint are often a sign of neglect appearing in abandoned buildings. So what are these two things doing in the same setting? Through her photography, Goldman has found a way for beauty to be exposed through less than flattering settings. Her message is timeless; just because something is old and weak does not mean that it cannot be beautiful.
As with many photographs, this one leaves the viewer with some unanswered questions and a sense of mystery. What lies beyond this lacy curtain? Is it something forbidden, or something we can explore? In some ways, these questions can relate to everyday life. What is on the other side of the curtain that we are often so afraid to venture beyond? What sort of new possibilities await us? The only way that we can answer this age old question is to take a risk; lifting our own lacy curtain to the adventures and excitement beyond our comfort zone.