Let Virtue Be Your Guide examines the author’s family, and their deeply rooted history as early settlers of New England (one ancestor, John Howland, was a deckhand aboard The Mayflower). Unearthing the idea of feminine “virtue” from the confines of its historical meaning, Denny’s photographs of the women in her family have a watchful quality, as if she is defining for herself what it means to be a woman. Her subjects, and the domestic spaces they inhabit, together evoke a distinct and well-worn privilege. But Denny finds the places where seams pull apart, exposing the shifts occurring across generations of women. The resulting collection of images becomes a search for meaning in heritage, a challenge to the notion of legacy, and the artist’s reckoning with a traditional version of American femininity. Let Virtue Be Your Guide was photographed from 2012-2014, while the photographer was living in Providence, RI (she now lives in New York). All of the images here were made in New England.
Frances F. Denny (born 1984) is an artist and photographer whose work explores female selfhood and identity. Originally from Boston, she holds a BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. “Let Virtue Be Your Guide” has received numerous awards, including Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2014 Top 50, and has been exhibited at ClampArt, Aperture, and The Griffin Museum of Photography, as well as Brown University, the College of William & Mary, New York University, and RISD. Her work has been featured by Lenscratch, Flak Photo, Aint-Bad Magazine, A Women’s Thing, and Tonelit, and is held in the permanent collection of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.