From Ellyn Kail’s article for Feature Shoot:
“As it turns out, there are a lot of witches out there,” the photographer Frances F. Denny tells us. “You probably even already know one.” Her project Major Arcana: Witches in America, now on view at ClampArt in NYC, takes us on a journey throughout the United States, introducing us a few of the many cis, trans, and gender-fluid women around the country who identity as witches. Here, the word “witch” applies in various ways; while some of the women are of the Wiccan faith, others practice outside of organized churches or religions. Denny met priestesses, healers, hedge witches, political activists, and many more during her travels. They each came into their “witch-hood” at different phases of their lives, some as young children and others as adults.
Denny understands the sensitive nature of photographing these women, and it wasn’t a task she took lightly. “I think it’s important to remember that there are countries in the world–and even places in the US–where being ‘out of the broom closet’ as a witch is not considered at all acceptable,” she admits. As with many other Americans, the photographer’s own family history intersects with the “witch trials” of colonial Massachusetts in the latter decades of the 17th century; she’s descended from both Mary Bliss Parsons, a woman accused of witchcraft, and Samuel Sewall, a judge who presided over the Salem Witch Trials (and who later expressed grave remorse over his actions and their consequences). Today, the spectre of those traumas lingers in the background of any discussion concerning witchcraft. “There is something at stake for these women to be publicly declaring themselves witches by appearing in my project,” Denny continues. “For that, I feel a deep sense of gratitude, as well as a responsibility to represent them with dignity.”