If this blog is to have any value at all, I need to have the courage to write honestly. There are phases in my projects where I feel incredibly disheartened. I accept that the creative process is more than simple execution. The Sacred and Profane project has been with me for over a year now, and it continues to shift. What I thought initially to be a very strong direction now turns out to be a simple starting-off point. I mean that technically as well as creatively. The images I hoped to produce were reinterpretations of classic imagery, baroque in language but filled with a contemporary approach. After shooting like this for several months, I have found that I need to go beyond that.
I tried increasingly complex arrangements and settings, but I can’t seem to make that work, because they do exactly what I have always avoided – they are too expository, meaning they leave little room for interpretation; they tell a story, rather than serve as a doorway to the viewer’s own narrative.
But there are interesting details in each of these images. I am tearing them apart now, and pulling out the snippets that distill the idea. These crops are reduced to the essential elements, and lack the broader context of the original image. But my concern remains that I will be misunderstood, and I need to get over that.
There is an incredible desire to let my viewers know about the internal dialog which I find surprisingly intense, and the research I have done into this topic. These are not simple images that play with art history. I have never been able to separate my feelings from my thoughts. This has proven to be as much a strength as a weakness, but it has been the survival tool on which I have based my entire life as part of overcoming addiction, and illness. I need to be aware of my feelings so that they don’t take control of me, and over time I have come to take a certain pride in my emotions. I try to let them enter my images, not as the raw unprocessed vibe that paints every day a slightly different color, but rather the refined results that I’m able to arrive at after sifting through thoughts, concepts, and a general understanding of myself – and the people around me.
Yes, I know what that sounds like, but it works. There’s a reason I shot the Hopper’s American series the way I did at the time – each image reflects a moment just before or after something might have happened, and it’s unclear whether that is a good or a bad thing. That was very much on my mind at the time. The Hanjo story is a reflection of the choices people think they’re making about love when in relationships, and sometimes you have to accept the smaller loss over the bigger one… never knowing whether you will really know which one was the right choice.
So if the Sacred and Profane images are now veering into sexualized images that focus on parts of the body, it’s not because I want to make fetishistic close-ups of arm pits, breasts, feet and shoulders, but rather because that is exactly where the vulnerability can be found. Those are the Achillian heels, the gateways to what is left of the Feminine in a visual language that to this day has been shaped by patriarchy.
But I need to accept that the images will be interpreted by my viewers as they choose.
More complex is the desire to create work that justifies itself intellectually, while still using a language of beauty. It still seems anathema to a large swath of people that those two elements are mutually exclusive. And a concept which can be grasped easily is suspicious to that same crowd.
I am disheartened right now. I feel like chucking the whole project, because I can’t come to terms with it… I can’t see the final project in front of me – the sizes, the paper types, the production, and whether it works at all. I look longingly at conventional fine art photography… those clever images shot in lonely locations that make me want to go on long trips by myself, or intimate moments caught amongst loved ones that make me wish for people in my life that would allow me to take their pictures. I want to work without large teams that need direction, I second-guess the people around me and wonder if they are committed enough, or creative enough to help me realize the images that are right behind my eyes, but that I can’t seem to articulate.
But that’s momentary. Believe me, these are not rare moments. They stare me down every time I need to select images after I shoot. But… they go away just as quickly, replaced by excitement for the next image and a new idea.
I have some new ideas, and they will be shot a week from now. There will be flowers and butterflies and sex and beauty.