These imaginary scenes depict women’s struggle with domestic perfection

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States and people spend more and more time quarantined in their homes, many of us can relate to the situations that photographer Patty Carroll depicts in her scenes of domestic life. Carroll has found, now more than ever, that her work resonates with women as they commit more time to the kinds of activities portrayed in her photos.

In Carroll’s four-part photographic series “Anonymous Women,” she has sought to illuminate the everyday heroic women who juggle home, family and, often, careers. She addresses the complicated relationship that women have with domestic life in the fourth book in her series, “Domestic Demise.”

“I create and photograph imaginary worlds in the studio that debunk, critique and satirize claustrophobic expectations of domestic perfection. This series is a humorous yet critical look at how women continue to strive for perfection in our homes and selves, an unending, frustrating and fruitless endeavor, in spite of contemporary life and careers,” Carroll said.

For 30 years, Carroll has been known for her vibrant and intense color images. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago has influenced much of her work, but she also finds inspiration in colorful vintage movies, decorating magazines and from the game of Clue. In an 8-by-8-foot studio space, Carroll creates elaborate, imagined home scenes with mannequins as her subjects. She photographs them being engulfed by the items around them with her digital Hasselblad camera.

Carroll told In Sight:

“The still-life narratives in ‘Anonymous Women: Demise’ comment on the mania of managing a home. In these studio still-life scenes, domestic objects take over, and the woman is often crushed by her own possessions, obsessions and tasks, leading to mishaps and mayhem. My photographs are metaphors for the interior lives of women; how we substitute everyday objects and artifice and turn them into obsessions. Currently, as we are all confined to our homes during this pandemic, the meaning and overwhelming experience of being ‘at home’ is often humorous, yet, sadly dreadful and felt universally. While humor is prevalent in these narratives, the message behind them has darker implications about the role of women in all societies.”

Carroll’s work can delight us but also speak volumes about the reality of how home life can be overwhelming and complicated. Her “Anonymous Women” series has been published in four books, and life-size installations of her work have been exhibited internationally. See more of her work from the first part of Carroll’s series, “Anonymous Women,” on In Sight here.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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