Long artist statement:
My completed photographic project, Bringing to Light: Illuminations of the Unconscious stems from my experience of solitude while living alone during graduate school. In my isolation, I became fascinated with recurrent dreams and memories, specifically the narratives that included people from my past. I began taking self-portraits and, like Frida Kahlo, aimed to express emotional and psychological states through the exterior representation of my body. As the activity of the psyche became significant to my self-portraiture, I naturally gravitated towards Freudian theory. After reading The Interpretation of Dreams and The Uncanny, I began to consider my self-portraiture as akin psychoanalysis.
Freud wrote that psychoanalysis is, symbolically, when the analyst holds a mirror up to the analysand. Freud repeatedly mentioned in many texts that psychoanalysis is an illumination; a ‘bringing to light’ of what is dark, repressed, and tucked away into unconsciousness. Freud’s metaphor to describe the psychoanalytical process relates to the photographic process. A photograph is a split second capture of light as it reflects off of objects and people. A photograph's medium is essentially light, and the chemical properties that develop and fix light onto film and paper. In my photographs, the stark interplay between light and dark represents the struggle of my own psychoanalysis: to illuminate the unconscious, to see clearly what has been repressed. The photograph's ability to capture the intangible (light) and fleeting (time) makes it a perfect medium to express the abstract qualities of the psyche. And photography, snapshots in particular, has always been vital to the act of remembrance.
I created each image by digitally montaging several sheets of 4 x 5 film in Photoshop. I embody and perform all the roles of the people in the memory or dream. Because the project originated from my isolation, I performed the role of each person affiliated with that specific dream or memory to illustrate his or her lack of physical presence in my life. The multiple versions of me, (a fragmented rather than intact perspective), alludes to Freud’s structural theory of the psyche, which is divided into an Id, Ego, and Superego. The montage process I employed supports the notion that our latent unconscious activity, once brought into consciousness, is continually evolving and re-shaping. My images are reconstructions, like the remnants of a dream or memory that I piece together to understand their significance. Rather than supporting the notion that our memory deteriorates over time, this project asserts that we remember and reconstruct events from our past differently each time they surface into consciousness. Some details are forgotten and new narratives invented.
The directorial photography of Gregory Crewdson and Jeff Wall greatly influences my process. They shoot large format film and render huge images that match the impressive and astonishing scale of paintings by Romanticists such as Eugene Delacroix. Acting as photographers and directors, Wall and Crewdson fabricate the scene entirely by hiring actors, building sets, and using artificial light. Their work is often categorized as epic because the large-scale images capture a few solitary figures within a vast environment, linking the subject’s relationship to time and space. What I appreciate and admire in Wall’s and Crewdson’s work is that the images are not literal. Photography has a habit, because of its ability to render reality, to describe rather than suggest. Their work consistently alludes to the psychological states of the figures in the scene instead of merely representing the subjects. The images seized moment implies a larger narrative that only the viewer can infer. Like their photography, I attempt to capture the emotional quality of significant memories or dreams, and not necessarily explain their narrative. Where I differ from these photographers is that I am not attempting to make epic work, but rather, I focus on the banal and melancholy moments in my private life, ultimately making them public through my work. These photographs expose the personal details of human existence that generally remain hidden behind closed doors, in solitary confinement. My montage process also brings me closer to the work of a painter. I can do more than merely photograph a moment by altering the image in Photoshop, the same way a painter pushes paint on canvas.
Bringing to Light: Illuminations of the Unconscious reveals that loneliness is not necessarily from being physically alone. Visually, my photographs look as if I am with someone: a twin, partner, playmate, etc. The dynamic between the figures is always full of yearning and tension. Their interaction in the photograph is a simulation of the desire for and pain from my relationships. While the project originated from my physical isolation, I realized my inability to communicate how I feel to other people created my loneliness. This body of work, as an act of psychoanalysis, recaptures an agency that is lost in the typical dependency of a therapist/patient relationship, where the patient looks to an authority figure to make it all better. Independently, I found that my solitude provided a freedom, a quiet of the mind to untangle and express what I have been unable to say with words alone.