Artist tackles the topics of sex and sovereignty with large format portraits in Phoenix gallery

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, December 4, 2023 - 12:05pm
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2023 - 12:06pm

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A look inside Amanda Mollindo’s “Sex and Sovereignty” book
Amanda Mollindo
A look inside Amanda Mollindo’s “Sex and Sovereignty” book

Artist and photographer Amanda Mollindo began her latest project on sex and sovereignty before Roe v. Wade was overturned and the landscape surrounding these fraught issues in our country became even more fraught. 

The result is an extensive exhibition now showing at Eye Lounge in downtown Phoenix featuring large format portraits and video testimonials documenting people’s experiences with abortion, contraception, miscarriage, birth, sex education and more. 

The Show spoke with her more about it and how the project began — with another project, called Young Mothers. 

Interview highlights

You're a photographer as well, so there are beautiful portraits that you have made of the people in the show and their stories, but then you also have video elements of this. There's a book that we're holding here that tells their stories as well. It's a lot that you've put into this. Why did you sort of tackle this from many different mediums?

AMANDA MOLLINDO: As a photographer, as that was my discipline for many years, I started there. I started with photographs. I started approaching friends and letting people know that I was interested in this project, started finding participants. The first few participants that I worked with, I actually only had photos of them.

But I realized after that first set of work, that they had these stories that they were sharing with me, while we were doing this photoshoot, and there was no way for me to kind of remember them because I wasn't approaching it as a journalist or a formal interview or anything like that. I was just listening to them.

And I also didn't know how to share that with other people.

And that led me after about a year to start introducing video. So now these photoshoots resulted in kind of a session that was both photography and then video. They would take 2 or 3 hours.

I'm so grateful for my participants time because that's a commitment, especially talking about such emotional experiences often, and we would take photos and these are large format film photographs.

It was very slow process. We would take maybe five photos at most.

And then we would sit down for a video and that is how I realized a book might actually lend itself to giving people time with the stories on their own time so that they're not kind of sitting in a gallery feeling like they're taking up space or needing to rent somewhere else.

The book includes the transcripts from the videos and then it also gives access to the video library that includes all of those videos that I had edited and worked with. If you're reading the book and you really connect with the story, there you can go and actually see the person sharing it, seeing their emotions and hearing their voice to get that kind of full experience.

Amanda Mollindo
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
Amanda Mollindo

A lot of elements that went into this, tell us more about the photography itself, because you said "large format" and that is a process. Describe this for people, like this is not a normal way of taking even a film photograph.

MOLLINDO: No, it isn't. So large format film photography uses actual sheet films. These come in boxes and they are not in a cartridge or anything. I actually have to load the cartridges in complete darkness and they're pretty large. The film itself is 4 by 5 inches. It gives a rich detail that, really up until recently, was not comparable digitally.

It would usually look like, in some cases, two photos. We would only have time for two photos and I had another person coming in immediately after them. In most situations though we would have time to do four to six photographs and it takes a long time because this camera has bellows. It looks kind of like an accordion.

People see me and they're like, "Oh, it's an old timey camera."

I'm like it is, but it's not, it can still be contemporary.

I have to have it on a tripod, we have to move really slowly. And what I loved about that camera is that when I put in the film, I can't see the viewing area. It's called a ground glass on this camera. But I can't see the participant through my camera when I'm taking the photographs. So I have to look at them directly.

And I think that's really special because there's nothing interfering between me and the participants.

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