Nakadate offered the technicians minimal instruction and never met any of them face-to-face. This process infuses the series with randomness and chance, which the artist connects to her own experience. “Suffering and loss teach us that we’re not responsible for how things go,” she said. In one shot, Mary reclines in a teal top; Theo rests on her chest, swaddled in a frog-patterned blanket. The technician thinned Mary’s arms, employing Photoshop to its usual ends: personal enhancement. Despite the emotional gravity of the series, there’s a humorous element in such idiosyncrasy—the least of Nakadate’s troubles is what her mother’s arms looked like many decades ago.
In another photograph, the technicians accidentally placed Theo in Nakadate’s grandmother’s arms, not her mother’s. The technological failure, Nakadate explains, mirrors an emotional failure in coping with death. “At first,” she says, “I felt like I was getting away with something by making the photos.” She felt as though she was cheating at first. Yet no artwork would ultimately allow her to get what she wanted most: the opportunity to watch her mother hold her son.
Nakadate explains that “The Kingdom” grew out of her “Relations” series, for which she photographed strangers who shared her mother’s DNA. Nakadate herself received the results for her mother’s genetic sample and was able to connect with her distant relatives via the testing website, which linked genealogical matches. She traveled the country, shooting them at night. “That was all about my mother’s DNA, and so is this show,” the artist said. She began “Relations” hoping to find a family member on her mother’s side who’d been given up for adoption as a baby. (Nakadate finally reconnected with him in the spring of 2016.)