From Shane Mitchell’s article for The New York Times:

Also bringing the events into a modern context is Ms. Denny’s photo series, “Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America,” which documents those who are reclaiming “witch” from its use as a weapon to punish otherness.

“This is a word that has accumulated a lot of baggage,” said Ms. Denny, who is a descendant of both Samuel Sewell, one of the Salem trial judges, and Mary Bliss Parsons, of Northampton, accused of witchcraft in 1674 and acquitted by a court in Boston. “What does it mean to be a witch?” she asked. “What does it mean to practice witchcraft? The witch is the only female archetype that is defined autonomously. And, of course, she’s the most feared and reviled.”

Opposite the McQueen gallery, the museum has mounted a selection of Ms. Denny’s most colorful, solemn and diversely feminine portraits. She spent three years photographing more than 75 subjects who identify on this spiritual spectrum—kitchen witches (witches with a focus on healing food), brujas (“witches” in Spanish), medicine women, herbalists, manbo asogwe (Haitian Voudou priestesses), practitioners of Santería, tarot readers and goddess worshipers. Some have embraced their identity publicly—a scroll through the TikTok hashtag WitchTok makes that clear—and others remain in the “broom closet,” as Ms. Denny put it, for fear of persecution.

“All of my subjects chose where they were photographed, and what they wore, so that they would have a stake in their own representation,” Ms. Denny said. She pointed to a middle-aged surgical coordinator for an organ transplant unit dressed in her scrubs. “You could pass Debbie on the street and not realize you’re walking by a Wiccan high priestess.”

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Browse the series “Major Arcana: Witches in America” at ClampArt
Browse all of Frances F. Denny’s work at ClampArt