Since meeting at the Yale MFA program in the late 1980’s, Marion Belanger, Mary Berridge, Ann Burke Daly, Laura Letinsky, Tanya Marcuse, and Jennette Williams have been meeting to discuss work in progress and to celebrate milestones. By 1995 we formalized these gatherings around our five-year birthdays, and a tradition arose of giving photographs from current work as birthday presents. These gatherings have sustained us as artists and have held the group together, tightly bonded, for twenty-five years and over 125 photographic gifts. Giving and receiving photographs is a reminder of how art and friendship endure, as we grow older. Our gifts to each other create a visual record of our bond and our story. They trace the arc of each artist’s work over the course of a career; yet at the same time they tell a larger tale of the evolution of the medium. During the quarter-century span of our group, from the late 1980’s to the present, photography rose to a dominant position in the art world, while shifting from analogue to digital, from a basis in fact to assumed fictionality, from object to Instagram.
Our project is about feminism, friendship, the Yale School of Art, photography, and at the deepest level about transience. Perhaps we were all drawn to photography for the way it wrestles with time and impermanence. While the theme of transience touches all of our work, it has also moved from background to foreground, from concept to reality when tragically, in 2015, Jennette received a terminal prognosis; she passed away on April 9. This book is both a celebration of, and memorial to, a group that will never again be as it has been.
One possible structure for the book is a sequence of selections of the gifts (perhaps 8 per artist), intermingling our photographs non-chronologically, creating conversations between images for the viewer, in a way that mirrors our dialogue. An index, including thumbnails, can group each photographer’s work to provide an experience of our individual trajectories. We envision a forward by the acclaimed writer Daniel Mendelsohn, and a longer essay by Laura Wexler.