This project explores the implications of the internet as new kind of domestic space. Living online, we construct the history of our families through photographs displayed in Flickr photostreams and Facebook walls in much the same way we would use the mantle or the living room wall. Yet this space is profoundly public, shared with strangers as well as friends and family. By making these histories public we open them up to the eyes of voyeurs and anonymous followers. In this project I become a photographic follower. In the same way that Vito Acconci and Sophie Calle documented their following of a stranger through public space, I document my encounter with a stranger found in the digital public commons of Flickr.
For this project I chose to follow a woman who is both a wife and a mother. I wanted to study how her body was captured and represented through her photographic history. Through my searches on Flickr I found Erica Bentley, the wife of Michael and mother of Andrew and Alexander. Her husband posted a collection of 6,619 photographs of their family over ten years to the photostream Michael Bentley under a Creative Commons license. In Reimaging Erica I make an alternate family history for Erica Bentley that is composed solely of photographs of her. To construct this history I selected images from the photostream that include Erica’s body and digitally removed the bodies of her family. By isolating Erica, I reveal the pieces of her body that have been erased by the encroaching bodies of her family and friends. On June 15th, 2017, eleven years after Erica’s husband, Michael Bentley, posted his first photograph, I began to post these new images to a photostream on Flickr and an Instagram feed titled Reimaging Erica. I chose to return the images to Flickr as a way to make public my act of following and my recasting of Erica’s story. While the web is often used as a site for the construction of traditional family narratives, it also has the potential to be a site for the deconstruction and rewriting of those same narratives.
Michael Bentley posted 6,619 photographs to Flickr from June 6, 2006 to December 13, 2014.
All of the images were posted under the Creative Commons Attribution license and can be reused and modified.
1,141 photographs in this archive include Erica Bentley.
To isolate Erica’s body we digitally remove all the other people by constructing new backgrounds to cover each person in Photoshop.
On June 15th, 2017, eleven years after Michael Bentley posted his first photograph of Erica we began reposting the images to Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr.
Every day for a year we will repost all the images that were posted on that day between 2006 and 2014; for example on October 25th, 2017 we will post photographs that were posted on October 25th in 2007, 2010, and 2011.
Each image is captioned with the original title, description, and the date it originally appeared.
All of the modified images are posted under the Creative Commons Attribution license and can be reused and modified.
We do not know Erica Bentley or her family and have not contacted her.