Post publication of Family Album (2017) I presumed my relationship with Nina Weiste had concluded, but Nina’s spirit decided otherwise. Her influence on the course of my life endures. The discovery of her photographs provides inspiration for my project. However, a significant project outcome was recognition that childhood sexual trauma produced a place within me for Nina Weiste to reside. Sexual trauma festered in my subconscious for twenty-five years. Relationships terminated due to my fear of intimacy. In due course, psychotherapy disentangling the detrimental effect sexual trauma imposed on my psyche. Consequently, a healing space was created within my imagination for Nina Weiste. And in that space, Nina became my partner. As a psychological construct our relationship presents productive terrain to contemplate the creative possibilities of interconnection.
The discovery of Nina’s grave inspired the continuation of the project. The inaugural image was a small shrine constructed around the gravestone with an assemblage of her 1917 family photographs. Positioning Nina’s photographs within my own generated a reassuring sense of intimate proximity. Capitalizing on such assurance, I scanned photographs of Finnish female settlers and their female descendants from family albums preserved within collections of two local museums in the vicinity of Nina’s Dakota birthplace (also the location of Finnish settlement). I made life-sized photographs (portraits) from a selection of scans then recontextualized them within a variety of settings juxtaposed with myself (self-portraits). Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions project work initially focused on locations in North and South Dakota relevant to Nina’s formative years and Finnish heritage. Since international travel is viable again, during August 2022, I commenced work in the location of Nina’s ancestral home, Jokijärvi, Finland. Surprisingly, when I arrived in Jokijärvi, I experienced the same affirmational sense of coming home that accompanied my arrival in the Dakotas.