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Photography Book Portrays the Underside of Motherhood

Bridgehampton photographer unveils her latest book at BookHampton

Book signings for new releases aren't new, but Bastienne Schmidt will bring a unique twist to hers when she appears at in East Hampton on Saturday. The books she'll be signing pre-date their official American release.

The Bridgehampton photographer is able to work this magic by presenting the German publication of her latest book, "Home Stills." The book was released in Germany by Jovis Publishers to coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. The American version will be published in February by Distributed Art Publishers.

There will be no discernible differences between the two editions, Schmidt said.

"Home Stills" portrays the unspoken disconnect and loneliness that arrives when motherhood does. The images—most of which use Schmidt as the central character—quietly challenge the American ideal that women can have motherhood, a career and personal life, without sacrificing any part of the experience. This is not reality, she contends. After the birth of her sons with husband Philippe Cheng, also a photographer, Schmidt set out to explore female identity and changes brought on by motherhood, filtered through popular American culture.

"Becoming a mother changes everything," Schmidt said. "It's wonderful but the reality is you don't have the same life. There is isolation and restrictions. No one wants to talk about it because being a mother is supposed to be enough. As a photographer, I wanted to document what I was going through and explore the universal themes surrounding life and its changes."

The book contains 60 photographs and 25 drawings by Schmidt. Most of the images are self-portraits of a sort. The images do not focus on her face and her appearance always differs. This gives the impression that more than one model may have been the focus of the camera lens.

Schmidt photographs herself in situations that give rise to feelings of alienation, displacement, loneliness and silent wonderings if escape is desired. Settings were selected around the East End and Long Island. These images are found in the section "Home Stills."

For the section titled "Film Stills," Schmidt photographed film stills of women through a layer of traditional women's fabric or torn paper. This way, the book connects the present and past through the depiction of historic roles played by women, Schmidt said.

"Home Stills" is Schmidt's fourth book. Her other books have documented death rituals in Latin America ("Vivir la Muerte"); American hopes and lives ("American Dreams") and her homeland of Germany as an outsider might see it ("ShadowHome").

Schmidt's photography and artwork and images from "Home Stills" can be viewed at www.bastienneschmidt.com. "Home Stills" is carried at all BookHamptons. Schmidt will sign books on Saturday between 4 and 6 p.m. at the East Hampton bookstore. The book is $40.

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