then he forgot my name

Susan Copich

2016 - Ongoing

then he forgot my name, a self-portrait photography series, examines decay and mortality while reflecting the collective awakening of female power set in American Rust Belt darling, Youngstown, Ohio.

Several years ago my father was diagnosed with dementia, prompting frequent visits to my hometown. Using a family owned historic building in the heart of downtown Youngstown as backdrop, the building yearns to reveal its tales, providing a crucible for conjuring story. Evoking the inner thoughts of women—the ones who lived or worked in the building from its construction. Creating characters through researching past tenants (thank you Mahoning Valley Historical Society), inspired by found objects on set as well as the universality of womanhood, replete with its trials, wounds, strengths, tolerances and impossible tasks.

What began as a project about my declining father evolves into what it means to be a woman, with a look back at our history and tying it to an issue of today, #metoo. The title then he forgot my name takes on multiple interpretations—from memory loss to denial echoing from recent public perpetrators ringing harshly and loudly: “I don’t even remember her” and the coming-of-age vulnerability after intimacy with fears of being forgotten. Cultivating a comparison to our forgotten American Rust Belt, dementia and the women’s movement—that is painstakingly remedied every couple decades to only fade back to past archetypal structures—reminding us little has changed after a colorful display of exhaustive hype and continued focus is needed for lasting change.

The use of the color pallet of red, white and blue in conjunction with the deteriorating state of the rooms both implies and explores the vulnerability of democracy and tenuous nature of power, while flashes of yellow represent the light of new beginnings and potential for rebirth. Despite it all—amid the ruin—the strength of the woman emerges.

Working on my own over 4 years in a derelict building without heat or plumbing. I traveled back and forth from upstate New York to Youngstown, Ohio 5-8 times a year for 2-3 weeks at a time to spend evenings with my father during his illness and daylight hours in the building on my project. The sewing machine, VW van, broom, mirror, stool, broken windows, travel poster, paint roller and rope were all found objects on site. I used each of these items to enhance the story of the characters. Equipment used: Pentax 645z, tripod, gels, light benders, continuous lighting, flash, reflectors, work lights, strobe and natural lighting.

This project is dedicated to my father William J. Copich (1925-2019).

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  • private, 2018
    Invitation into a private world and thoughts, reflection of a female naked back in the midst of zipping it up or down––to cover, protect, reveal...; introduction of red, white and blue as the color pallet.

  • interiors, 2016
    Interior of a building within interior of a vehicle within interior of a mind; thoughts of a woman whose boundaries have been infringed upon smoky, dark, clashing, beautiful.

  • the fall(RED), 2017
    The color red and the action of falling signifies danger or decline of power, sense of self and/or democracy - the fall after the rise.

  • obscurus, 2018
    Second floor closet in the rear of the building. A closeted anonymous woman obscured by her surroundings and feminine trappings. A broken window symbolizing a disruption of old constructs.

  • bullet hole, 2019
    As the United States deals with a constant media flow of gun violence, the bullet hole reflects how we live out our lives within the violence that surrounds us. A feminine story of love and loss unfolds through the bullet hole.

  • ariadne's thread, 2016
    Title taken from the legend of Ariadne, the process of solving problems with allowance to backtrack and learn from previous mistakes to move forward with a clearer direction. My greatest wish is for the women’s movement to push forward globally and steadily, by learning from the past. This image takes a wounded figure, but connects her to the knowledge (thread) of history to keep pushing forward in awareness. It is never too late.

  • exit strategies, 2018
    A naked female figure with her back to the viewers. She stands in defiance and strength in her beauty and vulnerability. Giving or receiving wisdom and knowledge through the implement of communication.

  • herstory, 2016
    A seamstress/worker in a moment of exhaustion, contemplation, surrender to life, work, societal pressures. A break from the demands of life.

  • woman in charge, 2016
    A confluence of multiple meanings; woman in the throws of suicidal contemplation, the feelings of despondency that can be brought on by silence and shame and the expression to drive forward and greet the future––reforming old thoughts both personally and societally. Removing the armor of external identity beginning again with authenticity and renewal.

  • distance between, 2019
    Distance between: lens and subject, pursuer and pursued, thought and action, fear and freedom, life and death.

  • angelos, 2018
    #metoo enters the collective social conscious and the fall from grace we ‘all’ swallow with our long hidden secrets of denial and tolerances; dirty hands, angel wings, reflections, dangerously intermingling with fantasy, sexuality and ecstasy.

  • SHUSH, 2019
    My father recently passed away and I was thinking of quieting and slowing the world around me partially hiding partially exposing, not unlike the tenants before me lost in thought.

  • WHITE, 2017
    A nod in costume to Jackie O, American history, decay; wealth and poverty intermingling.

  • perched, 2017
    Teetering between protection and defense of: the female body, personal privacy, survival, society, ones own mortality, ones own psychology, etc. decay of spirit, mind, society, social mores, etc…

  • amendments, amend, AMEN, 2016
    my first cousin was murdered by gun violence in Youngstown, Ohio in the 80s, this image honors my cousins memory. Guns often find a way into my projects and the impact of this violence continues to reveal itself in my work.

  • exposure, 2019
    Playing with the definition of the word exposure on many levels within the frame. Exposure as light, vulnerability, direction, disclosure and influence.

  • biding time, 2017
    Time being swallowed by thoughts, #metoo inspired, rope symbolizing both death and/or lifeline.

  • reach, 2019
    This image is about composition, structure and feminine beauty even when obscured. The composition is for my father and the Sunday drives he took me on in and around Youngstown to appreciate building structure - he was an architect.
    It's also a metaphoric reach through to new ways of thinking and behaving in order to impact change.

  • dogwatch, 2017
    An aerial view of a woman drenched in moonlight on the floor of a bathroom, dogwatch is any various night shift. The hours of the night that many obsessive thoughts in an unhealthy mind run while sleep evades.

  • BLUE, 2017
    The convergence of light, color and title to express mood and tone. The #metoo movement reminded us of the collective tolerances we continue to hold secret as women and as a society at large. The phone being the conveyor of information, news, communication of loved ones lost.