Stories of the faceless woman

"The question of why I don’t show faces in my photos comes up a lot," says photographer Patty Maher, known on Flickr as Patty.

"It’s not something I set out to do," she says in today’s Weekly Flickr episode, "but the mystery and anonymity allows me to tell stories that are more universal. A faceless woman can be anyone, and that’s exciting."

Patty is a self-taught photographer and began taking photos only three years ago. Most of her work is self-portraiture within the countryside settings of her Ontario neighborhood. Patty’s main inspiration are stories that can be told through her photography.

"I love to consider a particular setting and then think of what story could take place there," she explains. "I tend to draw on a number of sources for inspiration: fairy tales, different periods in history, poetry, works of art, etc."

Follow the light The hills

In the beginning, Patty started out taking photos of herself. "I used to feel that I had to show my face because they’re self-portraits," she says. "So I spent a lot of time trying to take very attractive pictures of myself."

However, Patty quickly realized that she began focusing more on what she looked like, rather than the story she was trying to convey; it became distracting. To change this, she took herself out of the picture entirely.

Inside Out When the shoes don't fit

"I thought about using myself more as a prop and say what I wanted with with photo, rather than having the photo about me," Patty says. "So once I started getting my head around that, it opened up a whole new world for me."

Patty began using models in her photos — dressing them up in wigs and period costumes. Over time, her photography became centered around the stories she was trying to portray.

She waits for her dreams to return When dreams escape

One of Patty’s favorite photos is She Carried Her Dreams. She was trying to get the idea across of someone carrying their own dreams in their suitcase — all the while escaping and waiting for more dreams to come.

"I really feel that that happens in life," Patty explains, "We have certain dreams that we’re hoping for, and those dreams might not pan out; but if you’re open, other dreams can happen. That’s really very much what photography has been for me, a dream arriving a bit later in life, and I’m totally thrilled to be following that dream."

Looking back at you The Facing

One of the most important aspects about Patty’s photography is allowing the viewer to create their own personal experience.

"The fact that I don’t show faces allows people to potentially write themselves into the story that I’m trying to tell," Patty says. "Any picture I take, it could be any woman. It could be the viewer, it could be someone they know — their mother, their sister, their aunt — whatever they want it to be. And that’s really a goal of mine, to be able to move people in some kind of way. When someone says my photo has made them feel something, it’s the highest compliment I could ever receive."

Visit Patty’s photostream to see more of her photography.

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