After enjoying a successful commercial photography career and raising a family, photographer Barbara Peacock is embarking on an incredible journey into the bedrooms of average Americans. With American Bedroom, she is taking an intimate—and anthropological—look at the most personal of spaces, asking friends, family, and strangers to open themselves up to her candid photographs.
Inspired by the work of documentary photographer Walker Evans, Peacock captures the small idiosyncrasies that make up the fabric of the American public. Not posed or prodded, her subjects make themselves vulnerable, allowing her to document a wide range of emotions—from childhood joy to intense loneliness.
In many ways, the project is a continuation of her book, Hometown, which contains 33 years of photographs documenting daily life and personal rituals in her hometown of Westford, Massachusetts. Moving beyond New England, she's aiming to cover the entire United States as the project continues, with her thus far covering parts of the East Coast and South. One year in, she's learned quite a bit about her process, and her subjects.
“I am learning that there are a lot of lonely people. I am learning that people have stories they want to share if someone will listen,” Peacock shares with My Modern Met. “I am learning that people are fragile and conversely very strong. I am learning that being photographed can be an important moment in someone’s life. I am learning to listen.”
Her subjects come from all walks of life. Some are friends or acquaintances, others are strangers she reaches out to on social media when arriving at her destination. And sometimes, she simply leaves a card with information about the project at local shops. Each approach has yielded results and allowed her to enter into the homes of a wide variety of the American public.
Typically spending about an hour with her subjects, she looks for commonalities that can draw them together. Each photograph is accompanied by a statement, giving further insight into the psyche around the subject. “Within the obvious dissimilarities there may be between me and my subjects, there are core likenesses as well,” she explains. “It can be anything, the love of books or dogs, the countryside, fresh air, the yearning to travel or a type of food. Usually, it is the smiles that are exchanged, much like being in a third world country that is all you need. We live different lives but we have so many similarities that can be embraced.”
Peacock envisions that the project will take three to five years to complete. Entirely self-funded, she was a recent recipient of the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. With careful planning, she'll be stretching that prize to help her travel to all quadrants of the United States, giving us a complete view of what the American Bedroom really is.
Images from American Bedroom will be exhibited at The Fence in Boston, Massachusetts from October 2017 to January 2018 and Peacock will be signing copies of her book, Hometown, at Photoville in Brooklyn, New York on September 23 and 24, 2017.