Because Santa Clause answered my pleas and gave me a disposable camera for Christmas when I was four, I have been gifted with the amazing opportunity to curate my life. This is the ultimate power of the photographer, the ability to choose what we want others to see. In this crazily fast-paced social media driven world, it is easy to forget that photographs lie. No matter how pure the intentions, honesty is impossible. When I was four years old, I was given the power to fabricate my own reality, compiling fictional tales into an incredible account of life (this is an insane amount of power for anyone of any age). My camera is with me always, carefully constructing that which I refuse to forget.
Above and to the left is one of the first images that I ever made. I choose that word carefully; I had taken many pictures before this, but they were all sketches, roll after roll of Barbies lined up into militant formations. This seemingly candid shot (that I have no recollection of making) shows a deeper level of thinking. It is of my neighbor Jackie on our way home from school, she is a year younger than I. My guess is that it was one of those rare, clear days in February; I was probably seven. This sixtieth second of my second-grade life is now immortalized in an aesthetic that I would grow to adopt after deciding that photography wasn’t just my hobby but rather my life. Above and to the right is an image that I made this past July, very similar aesthetics, fifteen years apart. Both film, they contain the same compositional elements albeit different aspect ratios. I am interested in the fact that while it was me who technically made them both, I was a vastly different human during the creation of each. A child’s view of the world versus that of an adult.
Above is my first selfie, taken accidently long before the word selfie had ever entered our twenty-first-century lives. I dropped my plastic point and shoot (the same that photographed Jackie) off of a bar stool, the shutter firing upon impact with the ground. Fifteen years later, fifteen feet away from where the first image was taken, I made the photograph on the right. Another self-portrait, but with much more intention. This image is my silhouette reflected back at me from the window of what was once my bedroom (before the accidental selfie was made). As I am often alone while photographing I rely heavily on shadows and reflections to mark the earth, a record of light that proves I was actually here.
The picture above is much more powerful looking back at it now. Made around the same time as the other early examples in this post, this haunting image is my first conceptual piece of art. When I was seven I aimed my camera at my second-grade school picture. Shooting with flash, my image was completely blown out. I became nameless, this image could be of anyone, not to mention the addition of a plant (classically a symbol of death in any still life). I had unknowingly constructed a photograph of my own mortality. While I doubt these were the thoughts running through my head at this exact moment in time, I do remember being quite young and having very intense musings involving religion, the afterlife and our universe in general. For a solid three years, I was so terrified of the second coming of Christ that I took speed showers, refusing to spend too much time out of the sight of my mother who I was convinced could protect me from such an event.
It is most interesting to think of these early pictures while looking at my more recent work, side by side they reveal much more about each other and myself. So much of what I do is documenting the life I want to remember out of fear of forgetting. From childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood that has not changed. I spent most of college trying to figure out how to recreate the effortless aesthetic I was able to capture in my youth. It took finding the right tools and learning to get outside of my head. My snapshots still focus on what is dearest to me, friends, family and home, but now I have a better understanding as to why. As a child I was shooting out of instinct as an adult, while that fact is still true, I am much more aware of my life’s curation, carefully selecting the moments that matter.