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As an only child, I had a lot of time to myself, and much of that time was spent with a camera in hand. I wasn’t always an only child, though. At age nine, my 18-year-old brother walked out of the house one day and never returned. Too young to process the reasons why, or comprehend that loved ones sometimes voluntarily disappear, I turned to the camera to work things out. I obsessively photographed every banal event and every friend and acquaintance in my life in an attempt to hold on to what felt like a constantly-shifting reality. In an unpredictable and ever-changing world, I could keep a small piece locked down—in the form of a photograph.

Of the thousands of images I took with my 35mm camera, only a few remain. Most of them were made at dog shows, where I would absurdly spend weekends looking for a pet who could fill the void of a lost sibling. In this photograph, taken in the early 80’s, I love how the frame creates a sense of empathy with the dog and removes the posing owner from the equation. Through the simple act of holding the camera at my feet, I was able to connect with the dog, who was powerless, like me. And, in that brief moment of connection, perhaps I could make sense of it all.

image by
Phoebe Lickwar

Published as part of the “Early Works Project”,
curated by Laura Moya & Laura Valenti Jelen.