Paper House by Jessica Somers

PaperHouse_1 Jessica Somers

Jessica Somers – Expectations, these are things put on us from birth. Who we are expected to be. How we treat others. What we do with our lives. Some expectations are gender specific. Some expectations find their way into our subconscious no matter how much we have been shielded from them.

My mother continually tried to set a specific example of womanhood and femininity for my sister and me. She was and still is, seemingly without much effort, strong, self assured and independent.

She is a nurturer but not because that is expected of her as a mother, it is simply her nature. She is beautiful but not because she tries to fit her looks into a female typology. She is comfortable in her own skin without fancy products or devices to alter hair, body, or complexion. She became a mother not because she felt she must, her aspiration to be a mother arrived with her genuine love for my father which inspired her to begin a family with him.

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My father has also been an influence in blurring the boundaries of gender expectations. He was raised in a stoic environment where men showed little emotion, never cried nor exhibited physical expressions of love for one another. My father openly shares his sentimentality, comfortably sheds tears and willingly expresses emotion. There was no one head of household in my childhood home. My parents were partners carrying equal loads in the domestic realm.

I bring this history with me as I enter into my own domestic experience as a wife and part-time homemaker. I once believed that my upbringing would free me from the expectations, namely gender specific ones that came with these new roles. I am surprised by the desires that have been triggered by this new domesticity. The aspects of nesting, preparing nightly dinners and keeping a clean and organized home feel right. Hanging freshly washed sheets on the clothesline and removing a nourishing casserole from the oven are a normal extension of my happiness for the place I’ve arrived at in my life and the love I feel for the home my husband and I are creating.

Through the self-portrait series Paper House I investigate which of my actions are genuine desires and which actions are inherited from societal expectations common to previous generations of American women. Each photograph acts as a weigh station; a place to stop and evaluate, to measure and understand as I continue on my journey. These photographs reference my struggles, my reflections and my fears through visual metaphor. While I do not wish to take for granted my healthy relationship and stable home, I acknowledge the challenge of maintaining my personal identity amid the expectations that come with such gifts. I accept that even between the strongest of partners an unexpected earthquake can come along and knock the house down. But an earthquake can never undo the effort to sustain that which you love and endure. [Official Website]

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