5/11/2019

Lowell-

This time of year comes around painfully slowly, every time, like when you make a turn down a block you know you haven’t been down in a long time and won’t go down for another long while. It’s hard to trust perfectly nice spring days because, on a perfectly nice spring day four years ago, the world lost you. I don’t admit it often but the truth is you’re in every empty space I photograph in the places I’m from and the places I go. I keep telling myself I’ll be done making work about you and the truth is you keep showing up, often when I least expect it. I wasn’t going to write to you today but this afternoon in the gallery, behind a woman in a projection of a Garry Winogrand photograph, I found the better part of your name, and knew it was you showing up again. 

Four years is a long time and also absolutely nothing. The only thing that makes it easy to live freely, knowing it can all be swept away in an instant, knowing how quickly loss can pull the rug out from under your feet, is that I know you’d live as freely as you could, if you were still here. As I grow further away from being the age I was when you died I realize your loss has, at times, become greater than your character, and that frustrates and scares me. I wondered the other day how long your hair might have grown before remembering you’re on your parents’ mantel, in their house with a yellow door in Takoma Park. But you’re also on every street we drove down, in every long shadow of a tree, in every stupid Yankees homer. I want to tell you about stupid Aaron Judge and all the dumb shit Kanye is doing, I want to make the joke about the president of Burundi and remind you of who you were to me, once. Today I’m remembering you for the person you were and all of the you that might have been. The world is just a little bit dimmer without you but it’s what’s inspired me to try and brighten it as much as I can, even after all this time. I miss you- thanks for saying hi today.

-E


5/5/2019


In preparing to go back to Maryland tomorrow I found myself vacillating between getting one or two five-packs of Portra. Unsurprisingly, money has an unsettling way of controlling my every choice lately. I feel constricted and choked every time I want to spend more than $20 on anything. And then I talk to people who are my age and live in Park Slope, people who can quit their jobs and move across the country, or just move away from New York, and have plenty of money. I don’t want to quit my job but I do want to feel like I have enough control over my life to buy $80 worth of film if I want to, and feel okay about the $7 per roll it costs to develop, even if it all comes out like shit. All my film has been coming out like shit, this year! It’s upsetting. I have been shooting shit. (Rationally, I know I have not been shooting shit.) Maybe it will be important in some way, later, but it’s been hard to feel challenged or motivated or excited by any of the film I’ve shot since coming back from Europe. I settled on eight rolls of film - five Portra, three Ilford. 

Do I just make sloppy work? Is that the hidden message here? Is my artistic process ham-fisted, clunky, lacking discipline? How do I get it together? Accepting any and all suggestions here. 

-

In order to combat the loneliness and lack of control I’ve been privy to lately I have been doing free geography quizzes online in my free time. I have learned where Burundi and Kosovo and Kiribati are, and can point to Azerbaijan on a map. It occurred to me a little while ago that I don’t goddamn know where anything is and learning where things are has helped. It’s also humbling. 

I have learned a lot about my hometown in the past month, since my parents “got more serious” about selling the home I grew up in and moving south. A huge amount has changed. I am in bed with someone looking up the headquarters for Discovery Communications to show them Chompie, the shark they install on all four sides of the building during Shark Week every year. “Looks like they’re moving,” they say, and I pretend not to notice at first but then open the link telling me about the slow and gradual decline of Silver Spring as a business hub. Discovery bought Scripps which is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, which touches the southwest edge of Virginia, where my parents will move. Discovery will be located in New York by the end of 2019.

I have vivid memories of waiting for my dad to get off the Metro down the hill on Wayne Ave and watching the neon lights on the side of the building change intermittently with my mom, at the intersection of Wayne and Georgia Aves. It is probably a substantial part of the reason I stand at the Bleecker St 6 train station, when I’m going uptown, and watch the lights in Hive (built by Leo Villareal) change. For a city full of neon lights I feel like I see so few unless I orient myself in the proper direction, and watching the lights change at Bleecker St is something I can do anytime- I can only recall one time when the display wasn’t operating. I don’t know if the lights have been changing on the Discovery building in the last few years. 

If I started listing things that have moved away from Silver Spring I would just get sad, and if I started listing people I know moving away from New York (or who have already moved) I would just get sadder. Loss begets loss as I wrote about previously and I’m exhausted by it. The photo is of the entry to a path that cuts between Sligo Creek Parkway and the houses near my middle school, at the edge of the park by the house I grew up in, and if the developers and construction companies don’t change it, the eventual rise of the creek will.

-

So, then, my urge is to create, and I want to create based on something positive- not spite, not (just) inertia, not fear. This means I should make work that’s different and challenging and upsetting. My body has thrown me through the ringer since Thursday and I don’t know if it’ll stop. I read a headline on “vampire facials” (do not look it up if you’re squeamish), I look at Mapplethorpe’s work on the wall, I fantasize about having a Dyke Deck of my own. Tonight I’m going to a reading of dirty writing in Bushwick. I’m learning where countries I’ve never been to are located. Tuvalu is ten miles in diameter and I used to be able to bike that much in one sitting. I want to find something to trust in- I want to trust in my work. Fear is the same thing keeping me from spending money and I think I’m finally starting to get sick enough of it to do something without it influencing me. Or not, but who knows? Maybe something will click. Maybe I can start trusting myself again. 


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.

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