wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @kyotocatAnalog Bath (2018)

Bathrooms are not a great setting for photographs. First, they tend to be small/cramped. Second, they generally have crummy lighting.

This was a lesson I learned the hard way back when I was a film student. Every single project I attempted involved a scene in a bathroom. Without a bathroom with a window–which for those who don’t live in Brooklyn is a truly mythical creature.

But–for once–I have a bathroom with a window. It’s small but it’s south facing and my tub is actually photogenic.

During my last session with Kyotocat, I wanted to try to do something with it, esp. given that I only have this apartment for three more months.

By the time we got to it, the light was all but gone. My instinct was to just ditch the idea and cut things short. I figured that since I had no idea when I’d have someone else to work with, I might as well try.

I metered things and it was super sketchy. The rule of thumb is you can operate an SLR handheld down to roughly 1/30s shutter speed. Anything lower and you’re going to have camera shake. Interestingly, this has to do less with drinking too much caffeine and being jittery. An SLR has a mirror which flips up and out of the way before the shutter opens. The up and down motion of the shutter actually causes more of the shake than your movements.

I’ve all but sworn off SLRs–excepting the Pentax 67ii, I have trouble with fine focusing. By contrast, although rangefingers can be more challenging to find gross focus, fine focusing with them is a breeze for me. But I digress….

With a 35mm range finder I can get down to 1/8 of a second before I start seeing noticeable camera shake. When I first measured the light it was 1/4s (100 ASA, aperture wide open–f4).

It was 1/2s by the time I was ready to expose the first frame. In other words, there’s no way doing this handheld is going to work out.

Again, I thought about scrapping it. Instead I locked my xpan down to my tripod, put the camera strap around my neck, straddled the tub, braced two of the legs against the wall behind me and then treated the camera as if it was my tango partner.

To give you even more context: I’m wearing a long dress and Kyotocat is scootched with her legs halfway up the wall behind me. (She probably looked not unlike the model in this magnificent image by Joanna Szproch.)

I tried to line everything up symmetrically–which sounds much easier than it actually is when you find yourself in such a position.

When I got the slides back I was thrilled with the color. However, the slight angle of the composition bothered me. It wasn’t what I had envisioned compositionally–so I didn’t want to accept it.

I kept circling back to it for some reason. I still can’t decide whether the tilt harms or contributes; I have decided that the symmetrical intention is clear enough as it is and that the angle perhaps doesn’t harm or contribute and instead complicates.

Stepping back from questions of composition: the mood I was chasing is absolutely conveyed in spades. So I’m sending this photo out into the wild as a reminder to others just as much as myself that that adage about crisis being another word for opportunity is correct. This isn’t what I had in mind but I’m pretty sure it’s better than what I originally intended. I’m just not sure how to articulately defend that thesis because it’s more a nascent feeling than any sort of intellectual certainty.

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.

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @suspendedinlightAssisted Self-Portraits (2017)

Over the last three years or so, I’ve dabbled a bit with street photography. Alas, the only camera I have that I’m fast enough with is a panoramic camera–which is not exactly well-suited to that task.

Really, though–what’s stopped me is that there are just issues of consent with street photography that I find increasingly disturbing.

The idea for these emerged partly from an urge for the challenge of street photography style work–quick thinking on your feet, rapid response, etc; the other part was I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of time I allow myself to over-thinking things; and, from the vantage of procedure, I’m interested in minimizing my imposition on the work.

The notion here was that I hand a cable release to the subject–in this case Lyndsie–and she chooses the moment the photo is taken. I merely have to keep her in frame and in focus.

It was such a revelation to work this way that I’ve actually instituted it as a sort of icebreaker every time I collaborate with someone.

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @suspendedinlight – [↑] Loom; [←] Darkness Suspending in Light; [→] Baba Yaga (2017)

I have about a half dozen or so frames from this shoot I’m still in the process of editing–but I wanted to get these out there ahead of anything else.

This shoot was one of the most fun I’ve ever had–I love working with other artists but more than anything I prefer working with friends–and Lyndsie has become one of my nearest and dearest over the last year. (She’s so amazing talented and has this freaking magnificent mind and she totally gets *it*.)

The top photo was a riff on this. It’s a bit more inscrutable than I envisioned, but the more I’ve worked with it the more that is perhaps the point of the disorienting perspective. The title cemented it; I’m all about multivalent wordplay–it can be Lyndsie’s relationship to the viewer; or, the device used to weave materials into cloth (using such a device is not an inconcievable reason for her hand’s to be positioned in that way); or the part of an oar between the handle and the paddle (betweenness or, if you will: fulcrum as tool).

To me there’s something magical about it, something witch-like. (Truthfully the entire thing emerged out of me not being able to shake the fact that she’s playing a harp and the similarities between the harp and the loom and how Lyndsie as an visual artist and musician is on both sides of that.

The bottom left was totally making shit up as I went along. Lyndsie sat down and there was something powerful and playful about her demeanor that I wanted to document. I set up the camera and was so obsessed with getting her eyelight just so (check it out–so proud of myself for that!). I didn’t see the reflection until I first gazed at the slides through a loupe.

The photo on the bottom right was based on a dream I had. We played around until we got something that felt right and we took one frame. If you look close it’s not quite in focus–my 6×9 camera took a tumble in Iceland and the focus is just a touch softer now. But it gives it this very David Lynch like haze that makes it more obviously homage to Lynch then any of the half dozen other things in the frame I meant to specifically reference Lynch. So… sometimes I’m my own worst enemy, sometimes I’m looking out for myself against my own ‘genius’ ideas.

There you have it: a peak into my own creative process.

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @kattruffautPersonae obscura (2017)

The process for this was: It was the strangest week in L.A. it rained every day I was there. It had cleared up a bit but not enough to keep us from losing the light early.

I love working with Kathleen, so we kept things going trying to do the best we could with truly deplorable lighting.

This was the last thing we did. It was just an notion: a figure behind the glass casting a shadow–I’d been thinking about the opening to the Pang Brothers’ The Eye (it’s extremely well done).

My film was massively underexposed. You could only see the vaguest hint of separation between three frames. I thought about just using the one with Kathleen pushing against the glass but it seemed underwhelming being just a minimal element amidst a sea of inky black.

The inspiration for these shots had been something moving–so I thought maybe that’s what I’m missing. (Also, I’m interested in a lot of what

I’m really piss poor when it comes to Photoshop. @jacsfishburne pointed me in the right direction and I was able to put this together. It’s the best I can do right now. And that’s probably a good thing because I see it as sort of in the same vein as Inside Flesh; I wanted it to appear interlaced and glowy. But that’s a couple instances of glitching pretty much an exact quote from them, and why would I do that. This can be better. It was an exercise. Still kinda better than I thought I’d be able to do–and that’s the secret (the longer you do it the better you get at it.)

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @marissalynnla – [↑] Tenebristic Curatrix; [↖]  _.._; [↗] Against a Tide of Tyrants; [↙] Liminal Interval; [↘] Tightened with a Pin; [↓] Eigenstate (2017)

Back when I was first dipping my toes into the shadowy fjords of photography, I was a ridiculously squeeing fangirl when it came to work produced by Houston neighbors Traci Matlock and Ashley MacLean.

I utterly adored the ambiguity their work faciliated–mid-way between out-and-out eroticism and unblinking, it-is-what-it-is matter-of-factness.

I’d been following their work for the better part of a year before I learned how they worked; namely, when Traci made a photo of Ashley, Ashley was given the first editing pass. Allowing the subject of the photo a thumbs up/thumbs down first look–a means of allowing the person in the photo a very real degree of agency in how their visual identity was presented.

This process has become integral to my own work. With whomever I collaborate, I always offer them first look rights.

One of the interesting things about these images was that–without prompting–Marissa zeroed in on the all the same photos by which I was already captivated. (I’m telling y’all she’s not just a first rate model, she’s also a damn fine artist.)

The other interesting thing was that between shooting more frequently and being able to work in B&W in my preferred manner, it feels like my work is actually gathering something not unlike forward momentum.

Now if I can just find more folks who want to collaborate…

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @marissalynnla – [↑] Marissa Lynn (2017); [↓] Pellucid (2017)

As I’ve mentioned, I had two photo collabs while I was out in L.A. last month.

It’ll be another three weeks or so on the B&W–I use a specialty lab that I ADORE (but they are impossibly slow).

Anyway, so for now here’s the edit of the color stuff from the afternoon I spent with Marissa.

I was extremely nervous about the lack of light. (In an irony that wasn’t lost on me, it rained almost the entire time I was in L.A. while it was 60°F back in Brooklyn…)

But it just goes to show–trust your materials, measure twice, cut once and things have a way of sorting themselves on their own.

(I’ve clearly been thinking about Alexander Bergström & Akif Hakan Celebi more than I realized…)

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.)

wonderlust photoworks in collaboration with @kyotocat – [↑] Vestibular; [+] Hasp; [↓] Wombs & Tombs (2016)

I’ve highlighted Emma’s intensity, poise and versatility several times already.

When I found out she was passing through NYC on her way back from overseas, I contacted her to see if she wanted to work together.

Given her work, my expectations were impossibly high and she still managed to exceed them by a factor of at least 20.

The hardest part of editing was selecting scenes where I managed to–through some fumbled bumbling miracle–make a photo that didn’t completely distract from her cultivated sense of her body in space/time, her meticulously considered poses and affinity for experimentation.

Honestly, I held back about a half dozen good images; simply due to the fact that afforded the opportunity to work with her again, I am certain we can do them better than they turned out this time ‘round…