4/14/2019

Throwing caution to the wind here, color-wise.

Three 35mm scans from March in Richmond. Just bought a ticket to go back home to Maryland, then to Richmond to go and get the tattoo I meant to get on this trip. Been feeling better physically, for the most part, since then. (Drinking has such an obvious effect and it’s just plain not worth it to have more than a couple at a time.) It’s April in New York and I’m firing on all my denim jacket-wearing, iced coffee-drinking, New Order-listening cylinders. Operating at high speed. Feeling more like myself. Grateful for that, grateful to bare my legs and take my first bike ride in close to two years (I know). Finally getting a handle on things over here, thanks for asking.

I wanted to write today about loss and grief inciting desire, lust, and gross consumption. I have what I consider very concrete losses in my life - the ends of relationships, jobs, residences, lives. Sometimes it manifests as loss of an item (my 2012 MacBook met its end this week), sometimes a person or a place. The other day I was on the phone with my dad and looking at Google street view of the street my middle school is on. The images there, taken in 2017, featured trees that are no longer standing. Sturdy, ancient sycamores, now gone.

And recovery is something strange, too. I am currently in the middle of trying to recover my HD on my old computer and load it onto something new. But not all losses can be recovered, right? If the James River rises too high one season and takes all the ivy on the ground with it, a season of drought the next year won’t guarantee they come back. Some plants and things really love to come back (like the weeds in my backyard, burgundy-red and blooming already), but others are more fickle. Moreover Montgomery County will probably never plant new trees in front of my middle school; they cleared the area to put a new commuter rail track that will be up and running long after my parents move away, long after I will get any use out of it. 

Attitude surrounding loss and grief is also important. I find myself very, very willing to bury myself in helplessness (learned or not), I have difficulty thinking of something new. Maybe the county will plant dinky little crepe myrtles (unlikely) or maybe they’ll load the sloping hillside with weak-ass shrubbery, azaleas or rhododendrons, but they won’t be the same. And that’s what I struggle with: sameness, and the thought that what I experience and remember won’t be experienced or remembered or shared by anyone else. The precariousness of memory hangs at the edge of oblivion, like the dead branch in the center of the second picture in this set. But anyone reading this (hopefully) has memories that are reinforced as tightly as the train tracks in the distance of the third photo, as sturdy as the bridge in the background.

More than anything I want to prevent loss as much as possible. But! This is irrational. Loss and grief and change are endemic to life itself. Sometimes I am fine with the general impermanence of things; other times I am not. See: urge to unscrew the bottom of my computer and recover ebooks, music, playlists from 2012, old documents I may never touch again, just so they are not lost. Sometimes irrationality gets the best of me. I have been having short panic attacks lately, maybe 30 second periods where I have waking dreams about what it will be like to lose my life, what the loss of others will do to me. 

To get back to the original point (loss and grief inciting desire, lust, and gross consumption): I can cite a few instances of times in my life when I’ve tried to fill a void of some sort with a replacement, sufficient or not. I went on a volatile dating streak after Lowell died to try and fill the void of my first sex partner with, several other sex partners. (Heads up: it did not work!) Gross consumption here just means anything I don’t… need. I suppose one can debate the worthiness of doing the opposite of what you need to be doing until you get to what you actually need to do, but since I’m looking back, I feel comfortable applying 20/20 hindsight to my past situations. 

I think about these periods of loss in my life as spring and summer come back around every year. I think about how the blossoms at Pratt were at their most prime pink, both when Lowell died, and just a year before, when my parents were taking me home from my first year, loading into our now dead Honda Odyssey, and my mom found out her close friend from when she was my age had passed away without her knowing. The season of loss comes back in odd ways, every year, at different times, in different ways. 

What interests me more when it comes to pictures is the periods in between losses. I made some of my strongest photographs while my dad was in and out of the hospital in 2016, on brief trips home, between his first big seizure and his last one. (My dad has thankfully been seizure-free for a good long while, at this point.) Some of the trees I photographed then are now gone, to harken back to what I mentioned earlier. 

The work in my thesis is about fear of loss, and in a way so is everything I photograph. Julie asked me how to photograph what breathing feels like. I have no answer for her but that’s because there’s nothing to do but show it. You can’t describe it, but sometimes you can point to it. In the new work I want to be more comfortable with this impermanence. I feel a change coming and am bracing for it. If the river rises, I can lift my arms higher than before. I’ve been swimming more, I can get back to land safely. I can, I can. I have to.


4/1/2019: new statement

Two things happened last week: my boss told me that I am not, in fact, “taking pictures of nothing,” and I submitted to an online exhibition that required I write a project statement. So here is the current iteration of what I’d say I’m working on.

– 

This is an ongoing series of work dealing with subject matters such as memory, loss, and uncertainty.
These images depict the stage in which I take everything off the wall and reapply what actually matters, in which I pull out all the weeds. This is the stage in which I tread alongside trepidation, hanging by a thread over despondency. I often have nightmares of events out of my control, events for which I’m never physically involved - I only hear about them secondhand. This disquiet is mirrored by the inevitable variables behind the practice of film photography, specifically in the photographs taken miles away from where I live, of subjects not accessible in my day-to-day life.

I regain calm in the minutiae of these seemingly dull moments. I use my conscious artistry to abate my subconscious anxieties: setting aside an extra moment to take in how the wind moves the branches of the tree in front of the house I grew up in, the divots in the road, the sunlight through my nephew’s hair. These images are tremors along the muscle I am exercising in defiance of a perceived lack of control.



3/25/2019

Found this while looking through the vault today. This is Kensington, Maryland, in March 2016.

Feeling all sorts of out-of-place. This time of year makes me think of myself when I was 17, makes me think of myself when I was 21 (when I took this). The clouds shift and a sunny morning becomes overcast, I think back to days like this, I get lost in the swell of dead pine leaves from the autumn past. I spent two hours clearing out dead leaves from the bradford pear in my backyard, I cut myself on a rusty nail (I have had a tetanus booster recently, I’m fine), I shoveled moldy leaves into a bag and told myself the amount of cat shit I was touching was acceptable. Yesterday I got a light sunburn from being outdoors for long enough.

I talked to someone recently about pictures and it came to me that most of my photographs are taken outside. Is this significant? While I was shoveling yard waste yesterday I likened it to my mental state, I’ve been clearing out shit, all I do is collect shit and it swirls around in my head (or my backyard) and at some point all the shit, even the useful stuff, becomes useless, and I have to shovel it all out. Cue the Rick and Morty line about Summer getting her shit together. My therapist assigned me (I know) to at least come up with three ways to dig myself out of my rut. I shoveled my backyard, I bought a new plant, I looked up free/cheap yoga classes in the city. I thoroughly avoided buying new shoes, I ate some vegetables. I’m trying. All I can do is try.


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