The massive image: the ladies of Water Valley, Mississippi | Knitting
W.The Ater Valley in Mississippi is a city of approximately 3,000 residents. People move there or stay there because they fall in love with the Gothic style Victorian houses that exist in various stages of renovation or decay. One such person was photographer Carolyn Drake, who settled in the Water Valley a few years ago after returning from a decade of travel in Russia and Asia, including a spell who lived and photographed in Uighur villages on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.
Drake spent two years in the Water Valley and barely picked up her camera. She wasn’t sure how to photograph the place without it looking like a New York view of the “south”. It wasn’t until she became part of a knitting circle, an insider sitting on her friend Katharine’s porch drinking IPA, sewing carpets, and listening to real-life crime podcasts, that she found a way to do it. Knit Club, their strange and powerful photo book of the Women of Water Valley, is the result.
This picture, in which her fellow knitters and quilters are covered by flowers, captures one of the themes of her book, an extreme playfulness with ideas of motherhood and femininity – ideas from which she “ran away with her camera”. In the community of the knitting club, she began to wonder why she was resisting these ideas. Some of her photos come from abandoned houses, others from gloomy forests. Some suggest a mysterious sisterly ritual. In most cases, according to Drake, women’s faces are obscured to avoid repeating the male gaze. The book does not contain any captions, but rather short fragments of quotations from the knitters. For example, Katharine says, “I live in the middle of town, so you can see us all sitting out here. Some of my friends’ ex-husbands just hate it. They say, “These chicks are up to no good.” Maybe you are right. “
Knit Club is published by TBW Books