6/15/2019

Here are four pictures I took the last time I was in Maryland - the last one of the sunset through the trees is in my sister’s backyard in Richmond. I’m back in Maryland again tonight. I have had a hell of a week, and am in an all-too-familiar pattern of waiting for the days to seem less long, and for my sadness to seem less pressing. So I’m comforting myself with these pictures of trees. Below is a short blurb I wrote on what being depressed has meant for my work, at the request of someone putting together a project based on the experience of making photographs while depressed.

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In my statement I name memory, loss, and uncertainty as the main motivation behind my work. These are all byproducts of my depression. When I started working on this project, I was fresh out of college and lacked direction, without feedback. I kept photographing, though, and two years later I’ve noticed that when I’m not making pictures, it’s very hard to see past my own sadness. I photograph, and live, in spite of my depression.  
I am surrounded by change and feel like my life has been constantly in flux since this project started. The uncertainty comes from the fact that the places I return to, to make pictures, change interminably each time I return. I have a mild fixation on documenting things as they are in a given moment, in order to not lose those pieces of myself. This can be said about my portraits too- my nephew keeps getting bigger, my mother keeps getting frailer, every time I see them. The actual subjects are the feelings I had at these places, with these people, and since the feelings are in the past, I’ve found they can only be revisited through my photographs. The images are less documentarian, however, than they are manifestations of a past long gone, before the things I photograph are changed or gone forever. 

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I’m going to get off my ass and drive around and make some pictures. 


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. 

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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.

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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. 

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