Self-expression, isolation and madness are some of the themes explored in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s famous short story The Yellow Wallpaper. The protagonist, a nameless woman who has been imprisoned in a small bedroom by her husband, struggles over her illness and powerlessness while becoming increasingly absorbed by her meagre surroundings. Photographer Chrissie White, in collaboration with her friend and artist, Elvia Carreon, created the series, Portrait of a Quiet Girl, in reaction to the themes touched on in Gilman’s story.
Accompanying the series is a short, poetic statement: “Hours go past so slowly and a curious behavior exposes itself in the face of solitude. The true nature of our being emerges when absorbed in the comfort of familiarity and home. It is within this space, that we feel compelled to play.” Here, White has created a series of portraits that explore varying, and sometimes odd, behaviors, of an individual subject. The girl in the pictures undoubtedly evokes ideas of mental illness and a sort of madness. The struggle with identity is also present as the mirror is a recurring object. Each image could have been taken within the same small apartment, just like Gilman’s character, who is confined to one small bedroom, which contributes to her insanity.
Unlike The Yellow Wallpaper, where the character escalates from relatively sane in the beginning to pure madness in the end, the narrative in Portrait of a Quiet Girl has no concrete beginning or end. The subject appears to be unstable throughout. There is an element of playfulness, however, as White explores these darker themes. Sometimes the only way to escape feelings of isolation at home is through the imagination.
All images © Chrissie White