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/

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
’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

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
(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.

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with Kelsey Dylan– [↑] Not a Place–a Feeling (2016); [-] The Anchorite’s Niche (2016); [↓] Opia (2016)

Kelsey and I were able to pull together a quick session while she was in New York in November.

There was nowhere near enough light and I only had 100 speed film on hand but I think we still managed some good snaps.

Also, I think I’m getting a better handle on how to communicate with photographic collaborators. And I’m super excited now that my B&W slide lab is back online. (Can’t wait to get back into serious B&W work again.)

Joe TrainaKelsey Dylan (2013)

The so-suffused-it-appears-smoky backlighting here is just sumptuous–not unlike sfumato steeped in the implicit neo-paganism of the Hudson River School and then heartily infused with the sensibilities of Gerhard Richter’s landscape paintings.

And Dylan’s pose reminds me of a Venus born without a societal imposed sense of bodily shame.

I’m extremely fond of this image but I do have to take issue with a facet of its presentation. I’m personally against watermarking images. Yeah, yeah.. I understand people regularly steal stuff. But if you as the image maker have done your work, it bears your distinctive finger print with or without a water mark.

I admit that’s a personal peccadillo. However, if you’re an image maker who insists on using a watermark–be mindful of the fact that you are an image maker and therefore, ostensibly, a visual art. This tendency for visual arts to employ typographic watermarks is fucking inexcusably lame. (This is perhaps the only accolade I’ll ever offer SingleChair: he gets it and his watermark might as well be considered the gold standard–ahead of literally thousands of superior image makers who slap together a 75% transparency text logo. Mad unsat.)

Tanya DakinHoney feat. Kelsey Dylan (2014)

A week ago yesterday, Tanya Dakin celebrated her 44th birthday.

I first noticed Ms. Dakin’s through her frequent collaborations with the staggeringly talented henrygaudier. I learned she is:

  • a Philadelphia based model/photographer/provacateur;
  • writing a book about her vagina;
  • she [used to] share explicit photos depicting her DD/lg relationship;
  • and she has the most beautiful ink I’ve seen anywhere ever.

Needless to say she had my respect and my attention and she really doesn’t disappoint. Her modeling work constantly pushes the envelope at the same time as any number of psycho-sexual buttons. Thus, I’ve always suspected her of level 9000 badassery skills.

In the last week she’s proven–with the above image as well as her on-point and thoroughly refreshing dismantling of meddlesome anon commentary–that my suspicions were far too modest.

I don’t necessarily understand the framing decisions. (In a strange inversion of the norm, I think the vertical frames work better than the horizontal ones…but there is at least an intrinsic functionality to the framing–whether or not I think it necessarily makes sense: in every frame the force of nature that is Kelsey Dylan is the unquestioned focal point of the image. (And as far as creative decisions go, that is one that will rarely–if ever–lead an artist astray.)

Henry Gaudier-GreeneEdward Weston and the Origin of the World (iii) featuring Kelsey Dylan (2014)

Early this year Gaudier-Greene was asked whether he had any New Year’s resolutions; he announced his desire [t]o develop a better working relationship with midtones.

It struck me as an odd self-deprecating joke–coming from someone virtually unrivaled in the using color photographically to claim controlling B&W midtones to present a challenge after he’s used them to stunning effect (thinking specifically of his collaboration with Tanya Dakin: The Beginning of Mod, emphasis on this gem).

I suspect it is largely just that but it’s also an interesting and probably entirely unconscious framing device. Let me see if I can show my work for that assertion.

Looking at this gorgeous photo oblivious to the title recalls Goya’s La maja desnuda and Modigliani’s Reclining Nude.

Now, when I look at the title I dart in the opposite direction–away from painting as a means of transcending the ephemeral one-to-one nature of sensuality and towards the physicality of father shot/son printed green peppers and graphic nudity, i.e. the visual documentation of explicit bodies as a means of exploring the erotics of metonymy.

I don’t think such misdirection is misplaced. But I also don’t think it’s accidental. I’m not quite sure how to ground a further explanation of what I mean in Gaudier-Greene’s work, so let me take the half-assed route of the intellectually disingenuous: I see a number of parallels between Gaudier-Greene and Edgar Degas. But for the purposes of this explanation, I’ll limit myself to one. Degas set out to be a historical painter, he is now lumped in with the Impressionists–despite wide variance and in some cases outright antagonism to their practices.

In truth he was both a historical painter and an Impressionist; at the same time, he was never truly either. He was more radical and subversive than any category. It seems to me that in an effort to fit within the photographic tradition, Gaudier-Greene tends to point to the less obviously discernible influences he’s pinned to his sleeve while the audience fawns in awe over the calm and stubborn purity of beauty in the work.

Gaudier green is a photographer par excellence and a capital A artist. He has on at least three occasions made me swear to give up photography and on half a dozen others caused me to swear eternal fealty to it.

Chip WillisKelsey Dylan (2014)

I’m having one of those aha moments where the incandescent bulb over my head flickers, falters and then begins to glow bright.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you participate in the Tumblr art nude/erotic image community, then you know who the fuck Chip Willis is. The list of model with whom he has collaborated might as well be the Tumblr model A-list.

Honestly though, I’ve always felt meh-ish at best about his work. I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’s quality; it just hasn’t ever really moved me.

This image connects somehow. And I think it has to do with the fact that it features Kelsey Dylan.

The first image I ever saw of hers was the incredible Polaroid diptych by rabbits. This is one of those times where my thoughts don’t align all that well with language. But the aforementioned photos resonate with an unnerving curation of representational identity–looking at them my body has this strange psuedo-synesthetic response where I physically itch in a way that is half mosquito bite, half throbbing erogenous arousal. It’s an experience that bypasses critical/conceptual academnification via an impossible, coup de grace killshot, the bullet lodging in the liminal space between the thinking mind and the feeling brain.

It’s not just the Polaroid diptych, the majority of Dylan’s work seems to have a similar effect on me.

Therein lays the bait. But by the time I’ve realized it, the hook is set–or more accurate Willis’ image becomes something of a labyrinth I must now learn to navigate because I have found myself unexpectedly at its center.

If you know you’re in a maze, you just pick either the wall to your left or right and you as long as you follow that wall without deviation, you will eventually find your way out.

This image provides two clues as to how it is to be interpreted–and looking back over Willis’ work, these seem to hold true throughout:

  1. The image maker is aware of the voyeuristic slant the content contributes to the image,
  2. The image represents an effort to sublimate tropes and tableaux customarily relegated to the realm of pornography by employing methods associated with Art practice.

I suspect Mr. Willis would probably object to the second point. He might contend that he’s interested in presenting a narrative. But as with every image maker who uses an image’s potential to convey a story, the truth is: indubitably narrative images tend to be the exception not the rule.

What possible narrative could this image entail? What reason is there for such a pose? Is Dylan being fucked by the light pouring in through the open window? Hardly.

The futon is positioned with more a mind to mise en scene than interior design and the framing of the doorway imposes a sense of voyeurism on the proceedings. That it is a wide shot–presenting a more or less complete context–shifts it away from its pornographic trappings and towards a mediation on representation of physical identity, sexuality and objectification.


Illusions of the Body was made to tackle the supposed norms of what we think our bodies are supposed to look like. Most of us realize that the media displays only the prettiest photos of people, yet we compare ourselves to those images. We never get to see those photos juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering. That contrast would help a lot of body image issues we as a culture have.

Within the series I tried get a range of body types, ethnicities & genders to show how everyone is a different shape & size; there is no “normal”. Each photo was taken with the same lighting & the same angle.

Celebrate your shapes, sizes & the odd contortions your body can get itself into. The human body is a weird & beautiful thing.

Photographer: Gracie Hagen

Although I can’t say I am completely on-board with the execution; Hagen’s project seems especially relevant in light of the last two posts.

As with most great conceptual work, the shoulders back, breath held with muscles flexed posturing vs. the body at rest is so simple it comes across as cliche. (What is a cliche but a pat way of expressing a difficult sentiment, after all; part of why the Modern Art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t equation such an on point observation.)

What irks me is the extent to which the ‘body at rest’ poses appear affectedly exagerated. (Perhaps I missed the memo and that’s the point? However, I don’t see how that accomplishes the stated aim.)