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Art Photobook Reviews

The Red Purse by Jacque Rupp

Updated: Jun 13

And when I die

Will you build the Taj Mahal?

Wear black every day of your life?

I doubt it”

Graceland ~ Boo Hewardine /The Bible

We argue and we fight.

We complain about the little things, the choice of restaurant or which movie to watch. 

The fact that they snore or insist on putting empty peanut butter jars back on the shelf rather than throwing them out, or refuse to soak that expensive cooking pan, observing the costly scars left as any sharp object is employed to chip soldered gastronomy from -previously - pristine surfaces.

Yes, we fight and we argue.

Then, just as that final piece of domestic minutiae threatens to inflict permanent and irreparable damage, the reminder that the occasional sleepless night or forced choice of alternative condiment for the evening slice of toast is a price more than worth paying.

For sitting together in coffee shops, people watching.

For the cup of tea that sits, waiting for you by the bed every evening.

For the face at the window that waves you goodbye in the morning.

For the unconditional love and support that props you up and keeps you safe before you even realise you needed it.

This is the balancing act of life, the light and dark, the texture of  a relationship stitched and woven together over time.

It is incomprehensible to think that all of this could be taken away in the blink of an eye.

No warning.

No goodbyes.

How would you carry on, rebuild, survive?

Shortly after he died, I bought a red purse, which sat on my dresser for years. I knew I needed to have it, but I did not know why. I never used it. I see now it was a reminder of what I needed in my life as a woman; something feminine, frivolous, and out of character. It gave me permission to reimagine who I could become.”

Jacque Rupp

Jacque Rupp's debut photo book is subtitled “a story of grief and desire”, although it seems to be as much about courage and self preservation.

When her husband passed away suddenly she found herself alone with a young family. All semblance of routine, stability and normality snatched away, pulled like a rug and leaving her both emotionally and physically at the heart of a spinning compass. 

Lost and directionless.

I cannot attempt to understand what life experience she was forced to endure but one thing I know is that, for  all the - generally masculine - applied labels alluding to being the weaker sex, women when under threat will quietly put on their emotional armour and fight like a wild thing for both themselves and their children.

But once those battles are fought and the nest is empty, then the hardest and most difficult struggle must be resolved. The one with yourself.

Within the covers of The Red Purse, Rupp presents a series of meticulously constructed tableaux. 

The story of a woman gathering the strength to live for herself once more, no longer wishing to defer normality or deny the desire and suppressed sexuality that has been buried for so long. 

In a series lush colour rich images, emotions such as guilt, regret and shame are writ large, but after reading her text one asks oneself, why?

Yes, if a relationship is broken apart and lives separate and reinvent, then going forward there is no guilt.

A mutual decision has been agreed and the world continues to turn.

But if death breaks the circle, there has been no divorce, no acrimonious split.

Just a full stop, a cold empty side to the bed and no one at the window. 

For the one left behind, the marriage continues and the bond remains unbroken, but a life is a long time to live on just memories and the memory of love.

The guilt of betrayal and the shame of desire.

Time is the ringmaster, it gives permission to breath, to reassess, to finally understand that to carry on - to live for yourself - is not a crime.

If anything it is your duty. 

Time is a gift, but it gives and takes in equal measure.

Every day spent in the abyss is another day you deny yourself light.

Every day spent denying the opportunity for happiness is one day you do not get back.

Time doesn't care. 

It has given you just so much, use it as you will.

Time is infinite but our time is anything but.

And through all, the red purse stands as a reminder of this.

A call to arms, a validation and emboldenment. Even in the physical absence of the purse itself, the colour remains, the rich red hovers, protecting and liberating, enveloping and supporting.

In many respects the purse could also be seen as the presence of Jacque's late husband himself. Far from envy or scorn, maybe, just maybe he is on her side still offering that unconditional love and support. 

Yes red can mean danger but it is also the colour of life and passion.

Guilt is the domain of the living but I would like to think that if I was looking down, after the grieving was done I would like to offer an alternative last line to the opening quote of this piece.

"Would you wear black every day of your life?"

.....I hope not.

The Red Purse is available from

1 Comment

Jun 13

Love these images. As you say, meticulously constructed tableaux. In particular, I'm drawn to the purse at shin-level, the elegant outfit, the slender ankle, but the hand tells me all I need to know I think. As ever, the narrative is very powerful and makes me really "see". The initial paragraphs? Weepy sigh!

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