Mary Presson Roberts Photography

The Beginnings of a New Personal Project for 2023

“Of more importance to artmaking is our communication with artists from the past – our response to the universal questions of human existence that all artists throughout time have asked and answered in their artmaking.  We pick up the thread of those who have gone before us and, in our turn, add our responses to life and communicate these through our artwork to artists in the future.  It’s this relationship both backward and forward in time that makes artmaking important.  It’s not mere idle speculation; it is our fundamental response to life that connects us with every other human both in history and in the future.  We may not be able to speak directly to those in different times, but we can communicate through our artwork in ways that make our responses alive.”

-Brooks Jensen

I find such meaning and value in completing personal photography projects.  I have grown the most as a photographer by completing personal projects.

In the past, I have deliberately chosen personal projects.  These projects have been closely aligned with what has been going on in my life at the time.  In January of this year, a personal project found me.  Since then, I have enjoyed the initial work on a new project.

It has been a little more than a year since I lost my mother.  My Mom was an extraordinarily talented and prolific artist.

As a part of her process, she studied the work and lives of many artists.  She would read their biographies, study their work, and create art inspired by what she learned about these artists.

At the beginning of this year, as a way to connect with my Mom, I began reading some of her books.  The first book I explored was Utopia Parkway The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell by Deborah Solomon.

I was not familiar with Joseph Cornell or his work prior to reading this book.  During my reading, I began seeking out his work.  My search led to an exhibit of six of the glass-fronted boxes he is most known for at the University of Virginia.

Luckily, I convinced my husband, Randy, to take a day trip to see those exhibited works.

Looking closely, you will see how much Randy enjoyed the exhibit.

I also found one of Joseph Cornell’s boxes at the North Carolina Museum of Art.


While I was immersing myself with thoughts of Joseph Cornell and his work in January, I created an image to meet a challenge for a group that I participate in to practice my craft continually.  The challenge was to create an image to show my hobby.    This is the image I created.

After I created the image, it dawned on me how much reading the biography of Cornell influenced this image.  I was amazed and wanted to continue to explore the connection with my mother by being in “conversation” with these artists of the past.

In February, I began diving into more of her books.  We shared a fascination with Frida Kahlo.  I often gave Mom books and other gifts about Frida.


My initial thoughts of studying one artist per month were too limiting as I wanted to explore each artist for as long as needed.  I am still in the process of my Frida studies.  I have such admiration of her determination and have gained a much better understanding and appreciation of her work.

Since Frida is known for her wonderful self-portraiture, I decided to use photographs my mother kept of me to create a self-portrait.

Creating the portrait allowed me to relive past moments and realize that these different versions of me, the happy and not-so-happy times pictured, have gone to create the older, grayer version of me that I am today.  I am so thankful for all the former Marys and where they have led.

As with all of my projects, I am excited to see where this one will lead and what I will learn about my mother, famous artists, myself, and creativity.

I’d love to hear about any personal projects you have in mind or are exploring.

I am so passionate about personal projects.  I would love it if you would consider joining me to explore personal projects in June.  You can find out more about this opportunity here.

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Mary Presson Roberts

I am a travel and fine art photographer living and working in the Carolinas. My camera has taken me to places I never would have experienced and to people I never would have met. Photography has truly changed my life! Using my blog, I hope to share the joys of both travel and photography.


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