Picking at Scabs is a body of photographic work that engages with the fragile and unreliable nature of memory. The book and installation address, with differing levels of narrative clarity, my adolescent struggles with my father’s alcoholism. In an accompanying book, Five-lined Skink, photographs from the family album are curated and annotated to reclaim the structure and narrative of the photographic record and act as a visual and thematic counterpoint.

The autobiographical work uses recent photographs, images from my personal archive, and photographs from the family album to create an emotional space described by writing. Photographs range from unsettling images of a burned out house and a capsized boat to unkempt yards and idyllic images Niagara Falls. Artifacts such as immunization records and my father’s grade school photographs are used to connect the image to a tangible past. Short narrative writings, presented on the wall and book, recount memories at odds with the images to call attention to the disparity between the collective family narrative and my own memory.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photography, Artistic; Artists' books; Photobooks; Photography of families; Alcoholism in art

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Arts (MFA)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CIAS)


Christine Shank

Advisor/Committee Member

Roberly Bell


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes