Entangled encapsulates a pivotal moment for Maude Arsenault’s work, representing a shift in perspective and personal responsibility. “After years dedicated to creating glorified images of women,” she says of her success in fashion photography, “I came to question my role and influence in the transmission of models of femininity.” Albeit informed by a progressive, non-binary upbringing, this introspection is ultimately necessary now – in the context of motherhood as she raises three children including a young woman.
When speaking about Entangled, Arsenault invokes the French word carcan – meaning “ploy,” or “ambush,” or “ideological trap” – to explain the underlying motivation for making the spare and evocative pictures in this debut monograph. By which she means that becoming an adult and a parent have given her distance and perspective on the cultural demands made on the bodies and societal roles of young women, and particularly on life choices which have been constricted or even foreordained. Arsenault calls the work “a poem, an ode, a shout out,” and one senses that the quiet power of the book lies in contradictions still unresolved even as the author gains in experience and independence. “I feel often trapped in the person I have been trying to be my entire life,” she says in a touching and revealing statement, one that perfectly echoes the finely calibrated tensions and the tentative triumphs evoked in these pages. “Now I stand, shaky but alive, looking away at my world as a female with the best possible hope.”