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Michelle Barnhardt

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I grew up in a small village. As you can guess, gossip was the pastime there and everyone seemed to know everything about everyone else. It took manipulation, calculation, and sly skills to keep a secret.

As I got older, my mother started to share some of our family skeletons and scandals with me. My world trembled! How did the whole village not know these things? More importantly, the people who I thought I understood, everything I thought I knew about our family, was turned upside down. I became obsessed. I needed to know more, from every mundane event to every dark secret.

Mom talk about our family skeletons while we looked through old family photos. For me, these photos became little portals to other times and unbelievable stories. I recognized the faces, but they were strangers whose bravery, mischief, loss, pain, survival, murder, blackmail, or illegal abortion added a whole new dimension to my perception of them. It was so intriguing.

With such rich material, my work has always centered on these family scandals, and sometimes my own story. Formally trained as a photographer, the majority of my work is photo-based. That is, except for my most recent project, a comic book/graphic novel.

Regardless of how their stories are shared, I think it's worth sharing each and every one. These are stories about the human condition, about the intense relationship between family members, and just what we are capable of when we need to "save" ourselves or a loved one.