wonderlust photoworks – [top to bottom; left to right] Mx Incohate (2014); Homesick for the Distances (2015); 29:18 collaboration with Anonymous (2010); Map in the Maze collaboration with @camdamage (2015); A Dark Chant collaboration with @marissalynnla (2016); Baba Yaga collaboration with @suspendedinlight (2017); Hasp collaboration with @kyotocat (2016); Svartifoss (2015); Echo (2019); Woodland Cathedral collaboration with @marissalynnla (2016); Wombs + Tombs collaboration with @kyotocat (2016); Hold Me Now or Hold Me Never (2017); A Piece of the Sky collaboration with @suspendedinlight (2016); Coney Island, October (2016); Two Red Plastic Bags (2015); Samson’s Riddle collaboration with Kelsey Dylan (2016); Moxie (2016); Hold Me Like the Landscape Holds the Light (2017); Heart-Shaped Sunglasses + Helianthuses collaboration with Jacs Fishburne (2016); Emma collaboration with @kyotocat (2016)

Since I’ve been yammering on about it, it seemed only fair to share with the rest of the class. Above is the work I am submitting to MFA programs. (Apologies for some of the early formatting awkwardness…I had to trick Tumblr into letting me upload everything to a single post.)

The accompanying statement reads as follows:

I grew up in a Christian doomsday cult—an experience which forged a lifelong
preoccupation with the conceptual interpenetration of sin/transgression + salvation/
transcendence.

Storytelling figured prominently in this milieu—scads of Trojan horse fables secreting ideological payloads—but, also: beautiful, expansive conversations which were
less dialogue + more interactive sharing of stories not unlike a carefully curated anthology places various parts in implicit dialogue across the whole.

This effusive sharing sparked a strong sensitivity for wonderment which drew me
to music (something that saved me, continues to save me) + lead in turn to Johannes
Vermeer
’s paintings, Andrei Tarkovsky’s oneiric long takes, William Eggleston’s impeccable dye transfers + Francesca Woodman gothic self-portraiture.

(Other artists to whose work I perennially return? Chris Burden, Duane Michals,
Rackstraw Downes, Ana Medieta, Peter Hujar, Kelli Connell, Aino Kannisto + Allison
Barnes
.)

The enormity of experiencing beauty has always seemed a profound responsibility—as if in seeing there is a duty to labor in whatever way one is able to give something
back for what one have so undeservingly received.

My own art making process begins with the identification of a “visual problem” +
fits the form of a question*—e.g. How might a single, static frame imply a narrative
arc?
(This question maneuvered me from cinematography to fine art photography.)


Any rendering of a person in an environment suggests narrative potential insofar
as the viewer asks who the figure is (characterization) + how she came to be in this particular scene (causation) + what she is doing there (context).

This introduces a second, more complicated conceptual problem. Given that photographing people is a minefield of political + ethical quandaries, how does one depict
identity, gender + sexuality while actively thwarting the art historical, dominant (hetero-partiarchal) gaze?

The only means I have found to ameliorate this is to conceptualize my photography as collaborative . I seek out + work with artists—sharing my questions with
them, asking each to bring their ideas + personal sensibilities to the proceedings.

When I am behind the camera, I refuse to allow myself to fixate on conceptual
considerations. Instead, I trust the preparation + planning that has led to the point of
making something. I proceed instinctively, acting less as author + more as a steward/midwife; the camera serves as a means of extending my capacity to feel outward—both
from the standpoint of sensory stimulus but also with regard to emotional resonance.
When what I see through the viewfinder feels like a response to the visual problem(s), I
snap the shutter.

My strategy for editing retraces the above steps from conceptualization to execution except in reverse order + with one notable exception: my collaborators receive “first
edit”, i.e. if they are uncomfortable with any aspect of their depiction they can opt to exclude any image(s) from further consideration—allowing for the exercise of personal
agency in expressing identity within the context of visual representation. 


From what remains, I review the work with special attention to frames which
exhibit ‘good’ composition in tandem with unity between form + visual grammar. Work
which surprises me hints at subsequent avenues of exploration (whether by expanding
my understanding of one or more problems or suggesting more effective ways of addressing those problem). Time has taught me the photos which evoke a feeling similar to
what I felt when the shutter clicked are the ones that matter.

I am at a point in my life where it feels as if I am on the cusp of making a leap
forward in my work—the work is asking me to commit to it. The [REDACTED] program would allow me to dedicate myself to my work for two years—allowing me to take risks + experiment, e.g. I am fascinated by the ways my process
overlaps with conceptual + performance based modalities of art making; also: how might it possible to convey visually something of the feeling of gender dysphoria?

The [REDACTED] MFA would not only foster a richer understanding of art history,
it would also provide a in-depth interdisciplinary insight into the working practice of
cohorts + faculty in an edgy, forward thinking creative community

*Trial + error have shown me that a good question anticipates less an answer and instead suggests a better/more focused question.

CAH – Cam Damage (2015)

camdamage is an artist. Full fucking stop.

I mean she’s disarmingly pretty and if she’s taken a bad picture, I either missed it or have lost track amidst her steady stream of effing stellar work.

Still, I feel like commenting on her appearance misses more than half the point. It’s like Jon Stewart’s on fleek insight into the media response to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition: Caitlyn when you were a man we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen…now you’re a woman and your looks are the only thing we care about.

What makes her beautiful is more than just her appearance. If you follow her–which if you don’t then real talk you are abso-fucking-lutely doing Tumblr wrong–you know she is a wickedly intelligent and kind individual, with a sarcasm setting that isn’t just a louder 10 but goes all the way to 11.

At risk of using a meaningless cliche, she’s down-to-earth. Not in that she makes an effort to be some with whom everyone can relate– but that she presents herself as someone who tries really hard but fails what feels like far too many times to justify the investment of time and painstaking effort. She stumbles, admits them, gets back up and tries to roll that giant fucking rock up ye olde hill of impossible climbing once again.

Her work to grow and evolve as an individual, her courage and uncompromising determination shine through in her work in a way for which I know of no precedent with which to compare it.

The saying goes: talent hits the target no one else can; genius hits a target no one else can see.

By that token, Cam’s work signals her as a genius.

(Oh, and this picture is stunning: the vague vignetting effect of the strobe and the way it casts just enough of a shadow to cause her to pop from the background. The skin tone is both natural and gorgeously accentuates muscle tone. The unraveling braids, armband tattoo and perfectly executed eye light are all artifacts of high-end glossy fashion editorial methods in service of presenting something closer to a candid portrait. Just goddamn fucking killer!)

Bienvenido Cruz2.7323 (2014)

Have you seen Cruz’s Hell Is Other People 2 series yet?!?!! It’s so v. very fucking fabulous.

In fact, it’s so fucking fabulous that I’m forsaking the rule where I never post more than one .gif for every ten still images to post this.

The ramped grade along the back drop, tonal separation between the edge of the table and the wall and Ms. Damage’s pose/expression are pitch perfect.

The drumming fingers contribute unexpected movement while hinting at a sense of frustration but there’s something whimsical, perhaps even playful about the movement in such a stark image.

I don’t want to date myself–but hey, no one else appears interested so I suppose I might as well: this image reminds me of that Far Side where a guy sitting at a table is juggling several rubber balls with his left hand; covertly, his right hand scrawls on a sheet of paper: Tonight I strike…Death to the Left Hand! Death! Death! Death! The accompanying caption reads: Innocent and carefree, Stuart’s left hand didn’t know what the right was doing.

Brooke LaBrieBlack Tape 1 (2013)

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: if you aren’t following Cam, you’re doing Tumblr wrong.

Without question, Cam is one of the preeminent models in the Tumblr-verse. She’s extremely intelligent, has a nice voice, is six feet tall, has really cool tattoos; and when fuckwits antagonize her she spouts incredible, tongue-in-cheek mythological backstories, is socially awkward and a consummate bad ass. (I don’t feel the three things I haven’t linked require additional documentation.)

I have mixed feelings about this image. It was made with a Hasselblad 500C/M and I am all about analog photographic processes. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cam presented squared to the camera. (She really is beautiful.)

I am not quite sure how I feel about the tape is being used to cover her tattoos, though. I mean Cam has some AWESOME ink work.

But looking at this what stands out to me is the compositional logic to the placement of her tattoos. I mean if you suggest the body as a canvas for art, there is more than just a passing reminiscence in the lines suggested by the tape to Piet Mondrian paintings or the De Stilj aesthetic.

scherbius:

constructed/deconstructed

model Cam Damage

If you aren’t following Cam,  you’re doing Tumblr wrong. Her work is singular, distinctive and almost without exception is of the highest quality.

The above (shot by Zeitgeist Photography) is hand’s down my favorite image of hers. Each panel functions in and of itself so well that even divorced from the others, it would retain its dynamism.

Additionally, breaking the image out in this fashion works more or less like showing your work which solving an equation; the choices the went into constructing them image are implicated in how the image is seen.

It’s damn engaging. And not to detract from it but I would be remiss were I to overlook the obvious parallels with Benoit Paille’s recent work–specifically: Visions/Hyper-reality/suburb as well as the loading docks backdrop.

Paille uses a staggering number of manipulations. (Here’s a glimpse at his process.) For all the fuss, these manipulations only change the images insofar as clarifying the impetus for creating them–highlighting matters of shape, line and form designed to nudge viewers toward noticing how their eyes scan an image.

The above reminds me of a pinup photo. Or, more accurately perhaps: anti-pinup.

It replaces the manufactured glamor of Betty Grable with the (preferable to me) alt-punk body/sex positive grunge mien of Camille (Cam) Damage.

With all my bitching about how so many photographers cut up women’s bodies with slipshod framing, you would think I would be goddamn all over the pinup. (Can you recall one that doesn’t include the entire body? I can’t.)

But there are two things I find troubling about the pinup tradition. The first doesn’t apply but it lends weight to the second: in a pinup the model’s acknowledges the spectator’s gaze.

Miss Damage, while clearly aware of the camera on her, ignores it.

However, taking an existing form—in this case the pinup—and replacing its various components with their appositives does not a new form make; In other words: you can include all the thin, alluring, pierced beauties with a progressive take on body hair—and please do not misunderstand me, Miss Damage is so hot you have to spell it haute—but the result will invariably mimic the original form.

Inversion is like that, never quite managing to be subversive.

What bothers me is the inherent problem of pinups (as well as anti-pinups); whether intended or not, they serve as a metonymy wherein the whole of an individual’s sexuality is represented by a part, which is most often their sexualized body.

As much as I hate on pornography—it rarely struggles with this problem. Depicting the sex act is fundamentally narrative; it has a beginning, middle and end; demands choices with regard to the inclusion or exclusion of a mass of details.

As Nabokov noted: God is in the details.