This multi-layered image was inspired by thoughts I’d been having at the time about the process of baptism, given that my father had recently become “born again.” Though I do not personally align myself with Christian beliefs, I find the concept of being cleansed by water symbolically beautiful, but also curiously primal. The moment in which one dies in the soundlessness of water before rising up to gasp in the breaths of a new life is a profoundly symbolic experience that merits deeper inquiry. In this image I ask the audience to explore the power of such an experience while also examining their own beliefs regarding the curiously divine essence of the natural elements.
In Wilmington, Delaware there sits an old estate just off the main road leading into the city. Gibraltar Mansion, once the privately-owned summer home of the esteemed DuPont family, is now completely abandoned. In the places where nature hasn’t taken over, stories and legends have occupied the vacancy. One story in particular involves a young girl who was said to be one of the bastard children of Hugh Sharp Jr., the newest member of the DuPont family through wedlock. When his daughter showed up on the mansion doorstep after running away from her abusive foster parents, Sharp was said to have claimed to his wife that the child was “a stranger to him” and sent her off. Legend has it that the child died in the winter of 1915 just outside the gates leading to the estate.
After walking around both the gardens and the mansion itself, I was inspired to compose this photograph as an exploration into the young girl’s side of the folktale, but also as a means of understanding the concept of abandonment through the relationship between my subject and the environment.