Melissa Shook

My generation of women were not usually encouraged to become professionals, much less artists, but the value of painting and literature permeated my childhood, at least until my mother died when I was twelve. This traumatic experience of her death became the formative basis of my work because my memory of the years we lived as a family were almost entirely erased. I knew what my mother looked like only because of five or six snapshots in the family album. She has remained a tiny, black and white, soundless figure rather than a woman who once cared for me.

When my daughter, Krissy, was born, I began photographing her, the loft we lived in on the Bowery, her father, our friends. Unbeknownst to me, I was caught by an obsession that would continue for eighteen years and lead me into becoming a documentary photographer and then into teaching photography. This took a long time for this to unfold, but eventually solved my problem of how to make a living.

Now I’m done with that, retired from teaching, but still photographing, working in video and writing, I have the luxury of learning to draw, something I tried to do when I was eighteen and went to the Art Students’ League in New York. I even took a class with George Grosz for a couple of months before he went back to Germany, but left the room whenever he came close to my easel. It wasn’t any better at Bard, though I spent hours in the damp sculpture studio working on quite tedious female forms that were inadvertently self-portraits.

I’m pleased to be part of Atlantic Works Gallery, to have the chance to explore an entirely different type of work. My website is and I have an interactive documentary site, and my photographs are represented by