Artist Biography

Roseanne Saalfield’s formal studies in photography began in 2001 at the Radcliffe Seminars. Her current interest as a photographer is in black and white portraiture, a direct outgrowth of more than twenty years of untutored photography of her sons and her stepdaughter.

A deeper but less direct influence on her portrait photography is her childhood as the daughter of a blind man. Deeply uncomfortable in front of a camera herself – the camera’s unseeing eye is too familiar – she finds the disguise and the extension the mechanical lens afford her both invigorating and comforting. Because so many of the cues in her younger world were verbal – and because her Irish father was such a mesmerizing, natural storyteller – her efforts at visual expression have taken her into unfamiliar territory where the convenient spoken alibis have not been available.

The first formal project Saalfield worked on was a series of still lifes involving autumn fruits and vegetables, mostly quinces. Shot as color slides and eventually presented in exhibition, they reflected the photographer’s obsession with the debacle of September 11 and, ultimately, her hope for our salvation. Concurrent with – and providing comic relief from – that somber project was Saalfield’s response to Margarethe Mather’s and Tina Modotti’s photos of puppets. Here the female puppet – in this case, an ultra-feminine angel - and her consorts – artists’ mannequins, Mr. Potato Head - enacted a drama about sexual choices that suggested a greater degree of sexual freedom, autonomy, and self-esteem than perhaps either Mather or Modotti experienced in their own lives.

A multi-portrait project Saalfield is planning now would retell the story of Snow White in a naturalistic, contemporary setting with a minimum of props, make-up or set design. She sees it as an experimental combination of her portrait work and her earlier work with dolls.