The Mysteries of a “Knit Club” in Small-Town Mississippi

Drake has talked about avoiding or undercutting stereotypical images of femininity, domesticity, and motherhood, but it’s the last of these that seems to stir the most unresolved feelings. “Knit Club” is dedicated to Drake’s own mother, and just before the end of the volume is a page containing only this statement: “I am not a mother.” Children are featured in some of Drake’s most striking pictures, including the one that opens the show at Yancey Richardson (which is on view through April 9th). Titled “Adrienne and Zion,” it’s a clever double portrait of the group’s only Black member, reflected in a mirror and peering out from the shadow cast by her silhouetted daughter. Jackie, the woman in the face cast, is also seen with her daughter, Leah, who is turning away to tuck her head into her mother’s shoulder. “Sometimes I wish I had kids,” Drake says in the book. “I see myself watching as people around me have kids. . . . You wonder what kind of person you are, not really having a life in some ways.” Having spent much of the last two decades living and travelling abroad, self-publishing three well-received and now sold-out books, she knows that motherhood would have meant an entirely different life, perhaps not unlike the one she experienced vicariously with the Knit Club.

Maybe that’s why she sees the club as a kind of a secret society—something she’s protective of and hesitant to share. After working at the edge of photojournalism (she is a member of the Magnum Agency), Drake, I suspect, is enjoying the freedom of conflating fact and fiction. Like so many photography books these days, hers delves into the rich, weird randomness of real life to both ground the reader and keep us off guard. Interspersed with her half-seen portraits are the windows of abandoned houses, doll-house interiors, a towering bonfire, a card of sewing needles, and a plate of pink-tinted devilled eggs. Drake says that she was inspired in part by the structure and style of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” a novel that fractures narrative and shuffles points of view but unites them with the uncanny logic of a dream.

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