Nancy and her mother

I am Nancy Nolan and Photography is my life’s work. 

I thought it fitting to start this online journal with some of my thoughts about identity and our attachment to names.  I am not a writer, I’m a photographer and so I would like to explore this medium as a mixture of both. I feel as if I have been thinking about my name and how it applies to my identity my whole life.

Is your name your identity?   Is it your label or term that situates you in the world?  Does it define you?  As a woman, should you keep your name from cradle to grave?  I have thought about all of these questions at various times in my life, But never so much as recently. 

My mother, Nancy Nolan, passed away in March.  I am her namesake – I carry her name.  Sometimes I try to live up to it, and sometimes I run from it.  I agree with articles I have read recently that talk about how our names are more than central to our identity, they are like a personal trademark.  I admire the women who fought to change the laws that gave us a choice not to take a man’s surname. I believe people suffer damage to their careers when they change their names after establishing themselves.   

It is true that the degree to which a person’s name is significant to their identity varies from person to person. 

I rebelled against my name as a child

I fought to keep my name in marriage

I vehemently protect my name as an artist.

Somewhere along the line I decided that my name is important. I believe that what we attach to a name becomes our identity, and therefore the name starts to encompass our identity.  Identities matter and the words we put on them are how we make them real.

I’m particularly attached to my name because it is my byline; my professional identity.  There ‘s a power in names.

But most importantly, my name was a gift from my mother.  I realized that the name we share is something special that will connect us forever.  This thought makes me want to live up my name more than anything.  And with that I will carry her memory with me always, and confidently smile whenever I introduce myself knowing that she has my back.   

Nancy and her mother