These past few months have been some of the most prolific creative months of my life. I have continued work on Love in the Digital Age, Homicide, and the untitled body of work involving collaged pornography. I have begun several new series that are all untitled with the exception of Portraits of My Ex-Lovers. I have also been fortunate to see two more issues of The Fix come to fruition, which has been a whirlwind of collective collaborations. (See the cover below and guess what! You can purchase those issues here.) I'm excited to finally share some of these works in progress, even though they are all far from finished.
Love in the Digital Age premiered at The Weak Sex exhibition, which I wrote about in my last blog post. The most recent installation of this work featured over 60 pieces, which are all compilations of Tinder profiles and their bios. As I continue work on this project, I find it incredibly emotionally draining. While I feel as though this is an important analysis for Tinder users to undergo, I am often slightly dismayed on a very personal level. Perhaps it is just what comes with dating, but it is tough to interact with that as much as I do for this series.
Now, it occurs to me that some of you may consider these screenshots to be an invasion of privacy or illegal; however, I present the case of Richard Prince to you. You may not like him, you may even hate him. But his recent screenshots sold for nearly $100,000 each. (Get part of the story here. And check out The Fix's Experimental Issue for an amazing deconstruction of his ethics.) Essentially, under federal United States law, artists are protected from certain copyright laws in order to make social commentary. But, as it always is with the arts, it is often a grey area, left to interpretation.
Homicide is a series that focuses on Pittsburgh's rising death toll, one that the majority of Pittsburgh residents have become complacent with. As a reaction to the 93 homicides that have taken place this year (as of November 22nd, 2015), I have been photographing the landscapes of the homicide scenes with my large format camera. This antiquated process forces me to spend time in these communities, and often, in small ways, grieve for this systemic problem that is ripping individuals from our community. I have thus far kept the images analog, but as the series grows, I plan to bring them into the digital realm.
Untitled (Pornography) is coming along quite nicely. I have been experimenting with a variety of techniques and tools, which most recently led to the collage below. I am really drawn to making these commercialized pornographic images become beautiful representations of the sexual experience, as opposed to the often degrading experiences that these images tend to represent.
Portraits of My Ex-Lovers (alternatively titled: Forever Ago) is a new collaborative series I have been working on with the assistance of my ex-lovers. I realized that my senior thesis work was studying the affects of pornography on intimacy, Table Manners analyzed etiquette in sexual situations, and Love in the Digital Age toyed with the experiences of people attempting to establish intimacy in some form. But I noticed a growing trend: I was focusing on these societal issues without looking at how they were influencing me on a personal level. So I decided to contact my ex-lovers in an attempt to understand the most influential factor in my own perception of intimacy, especially these emotional and romantic experiences.
What exactly qualifies an individual as an 'ex-lover'? I am still figuring out the exact details of my own definition, but I can attest that I have found that, by asking countless individuals in the past few months, everyone has a different definition. Everyone puts their own experiences, their own perceptions on the very definition. So while I qualify these individuals, perhaps you do not. But that's okay. This is all objective. But for those of you literal folks, 'lover' is defined by Dictionary.com as "a person having a sexual or romantic relationship with someone, often outside marriage", but UrbanDictionary.com defines it as "somebody that you love, and especially in the romantic/sexual sense. A sweetheart... Lovers provide emotional support, shelter in a storm."
While the majority of my observations will be entered into a much larger post, I will say that I have been blown away by the support and genuine kindness that has radiated from these individuals. I figured that there would be a lot of confusion and concern for where this project would go, how I portray them, but by and large, these individuals passionately agreed to the proposition without hesitation. There were a couple of individuals that will not participate in this project out of respect for their current partners, which is completely understandable, but these exes still offered an overwhelming amount of encouragement and support for this particular series. As of today, only one individual declined to be photographed, which, of course, is completely understandable. This is an extremely vulnerable experience on both ends, and I would never want to have someone participate if they were even remotely uncomfortable.
But this outpouring of encouragement, support, enthusiasm has made me realize how much love and respect was exchanged in these experiences.. And even now, weeks, months, years later, there is love - not in this big, grandiose, romantic, all consuming love, but a lingering caring love, one of kindness and gentleness.
For that and the individuals who have made this possible, I am grateful beyond words.
Untitled (Contemporary Domesticity) - I have long been fascinated with this great shift in domesticity that is happening and has been happening for decades. Domesticity in the 1950s feels incredibly cut and dry: dresses and high heels in the kitchen, women busying themselves with arbitrary household tasks to try to forget the general boredom that constantly consumed them. Okay, that's a far too harsh critique. But I'll be honest: I am interested in this lost ideal because I quite simply cannot imagine for myself or understand it. I can barely get stains out of shirts without at least Googling it or calling my mom. Last month, I ate shell fish that was a month and a half old.. I thought it would be fine. As it turns out, the shelf life of shell fish is quite short. I only wear dark clothing so that I can do them all in one load. I am, by and large, a fumbling 21 year old, lost without the wisdom of the internet and my poor mother, who has listened to far too many tales of my failed domesticity.. So how did these women understand the complexities of cooking, cleaning, children all while having perfectly coiffed hair and wearing high heels, the most common torture tool for women? And what does the contemporary woman look like in comparison as she blindly searches for something to wash down seven week old shellfish??
For this, I started with a concept of setting these scenes up with models (thank you, Ayla and Jaron) in a way that encompassed my understanding of the current domesticity: an absurd amount of disposed Starbucks cups, Miller Lite, and blank looks of people in in-genuine poses, a reflection of our surface level experiences.. While I liked this work, it felt out of place as a black and white image. I shot it with my 4x5 camera, a bulky beast for which color film would cost me roughly $70 for 10 images. So I transferred to digital for a couple self portraits.
There's an evolution to each body of work, but rarely do I publicly share this process. But as I continue to seek direction in this series, perhaps it is even more important to begin to sharing the work, more earnestly gathering feedback and direction.
Untitled Self Portraits, 2015
To quote Leonardo, "Art is never finished, only abandoned."
Untitled (In Between Here and There) - The last series I'll discuss today tries to encapsulate the experience of moving, of being in the act of traveling, of actively pursuing a new place. As I continue to shoot this project from my moving car, I have been increasingly interested in the act of traveling as a proponent/signifier of a psychological pursuit more-so than a purely physical pursuit. The difficult part of this body of work is editing it down. It has been a bit of an editing and sequencing nightmare.. But fortunately, I have a few colleagues who are enthusiastic editors, removed from the emotional connection that I have with the images, and we are working together to edit the constantly increasing body of work.
This series has allowed me to go through the body of work that came from The Wandering Three expedition, reconceptualizing a whole slew of images. It has bene challenging, but thus far, quite entertaining to go back through the photographs.
Well, folks, as Thanksgiving rolls around, know that I am grateful for your time, your support, and your friendship. As always, thank you for stopping by. Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving!