BETWEEN YOU AND ME (2019–2020).
Between You and Me (2019–2020)
Digital colour images
Between You and Me (2019–2020) is a series of nude self-portraits inspired by finding and reconnecting with my birth mother. Each portrait is an expression of myself and of a certain key figure from my life. In addition to my birth mother, these include my late adoptive father, a fiercely independent man despite being born with part of his left arm missing; my foster sisters, who survived years of domestic abuse and trauma, and who were my biggest champions growing up; and my biological father, whom I have never met but am nonetheless intrinsically connected to.
Before re-meeting my biological mom in my thirtieth year, I’d never encountered a direct physical resemblance between me and another person. After we met, I found it nearly impossible to not see her face when I looked at myself in the mirror. This led me to think about the idea of family in its many configurations; how other people can mentor us, deter us, and how shared circumstances and stories can affect and shape us as individuals. While considering my own past events, I also felt the need to create a project that simply documented how I feel inside today: more strong, present, and open than ever before.
CABBAGE TREES (2016).
Cabbage Trees (2016)
When I was a kid in Northern Ireland, we had a small palm tree at the front of our house. In the wintertime, most of its leaves would drop off, and they were so long and rigid that my sisters and I would pick them up and play sword fights with them.
After spending time away from Northern Ireland, and seeing real palm trees in America, I realised my dear palm wasn’t a relation at all. It is actually part of a group called Cabbage Trees or Cordyline australis, usually found in New Zealand.
Even though they are thriving in gardens up and down the Antrim coast, most people in my hometown don’t know what these foreign plants are called. On a short return home, I decided to document each cabbage tree I came across on my daily outings.
Unique digital colour prints
4” x 6" each
Having applied for permanent residence, I spent 2015 unable to leave America. In May 2016, green card in hand, I traveled home to Northern Ireland for twenty-eight days. The trip was challenging and slow, and on the thirteenth day I had a minor operation. A quick outlet was documenting my face daily at various passport photo booths.
SOMEWHERE IS ALWAYS SOME PLACE ELSE (2013).
Somewhere is Always Some Place Else (2013)
Digital colour print
20” x 30"
I used this air mattress as a bed. When the time came to throw it out, I felt compelled to use it in my artwork so that it didn't just exist as this sad, depressing thing. In this photograph, the mattress is not an affliction on my life, but a life raft, an aide.
This photographic work is a sister project to Flat Line (2013).
JUST ONE MORE (2012–PRESENT).
Just One More (2012–present)
Digital colour images
I’ve been taking “selfies” since the mid 2000s. They usually happened during a night out, five or six of us all huddled together while smoking cigarettes outside a bar. In one shaky, hand-held group portrait, we’d document our good times and share them amongst ourselves. There wasn’t a name for them back then. My friends and I called them "Arm’s-Length’s," and I still think this is a more accurate description of what a “selfie” actually is.
Nowadays, I take “selfies” when I’m sober. I see the pictures before I’ve taken them, while walking the streets of New York, passing store windows, or anything that casts enough of a reflection. They are still photographs of me, taken by me, with my phone, but they have evolved into something more complex. They are now about composition and content, and I share them with thousands of people via Instagram and Facebook. They can be beautiful or banal, narcissistic or modest, but they are always shot with intention and care. The project title, Just One More, is something I often say when I’m taking a selfie with my husband.
Images from this project appear in Smyth’s debut monograph: Just One More: Self-Portraits 2012–2017, published by bd-studios.com (New York City), and designed by luke kurtis. The book features fifty plates, an introductory essay by Michelle Dunn Marsh, and conversation between Smyth and photographer Dana Stirling. You can find out more about the book, and purchase a signed copy here.
Just One More also exists as a digital slideshow presentation that is regularly updated and edited for exhibitions. The slideshow has been featured in various galleries, festivals, and venues across the United States and abroad, including Me and My Selfie at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle in 2015, and Royal Ulster Academy of Art’s Annual Exhibition in 2018 at The Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland.