Sydney Howard

Sydney Howard is a 22-year-old artist based out of the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York. Her most recent work, “An Ordinary House” explores ideas surrounding family relationships, memory, trauma and the inheritability of trauma. Sydney recently received her BFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. She is currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY.

An Ordinary House

My work emerged from two traumatic events that have burrowed deep within my family… Three years ago, I learned my mother was drugged and raped when she was around my age. She had been hitchhiking through England, which was not all uncommon over 30 years ago. On August 13th, 1986 she was picked up by a man who forcefully injected her with a drug over 7 times in the thigh and raped her repeatedly as she went in and out of consciousness. In the early morning hours, he dumped her unconscious body in a field on the side of the road. At 15, I learned that my biological father molested me at the age of three. Though I have no conscious memory of my abuse and I did not know of my mother’s assault throughout my childhood, it is clear that these traumas —and the symptoms of trauma— have manifested in my family in complicated ways. It is believed that trauma can be transmitted both psychologically and biologically across generations if left to fester.

My images trace the baleful presence of trauma within my family. When my mother learned of my molestation, she took me and my infant sister to live with my grandparents. The trauma within this house was occulted by the seeming normalcy of our surroundings. My images allude to a simmering tension just beyond the surface. By using an aggressively manipulated photographic language, I want to envelop my images with an unsettling atmosphere; trauma is present and destabilizing yet rarely ostentatiously manifested. My work is also an exorcism of sorts. By photographing the specter of trauma, is it possible to prevent trauma from further metastasizing across generations?

To view more of Sydney Howard’s work please visit her website.