At the end of my junior year of high school, I started a 365 project, where I tried to take and post a picture every day for an entire year. Although I fell behind countless times, and ultimately came to a screeching halt at Photo #100, I created a few good quality photos that I am still proud of today.
My first real piece of art was an image I call, "Because Society Says So." Some of you may remember it. I had manipulated several pictures of my hands and face and flattened them. I edited my eyes and lips, added more makeup, removed some flyaway hair, and increased the size of desirable features while making my face appear thinner and more symmetrical. The final product was this:
It is a rather dramatic and satirical photograph capturing what society demands of girls in the modeling industry and women in general. On a very basic level, I wanted to point out the absurdity of what we see as beautiful. It is all smoke and mirrors; it is all fake. This was my first self portrait, my very first piece of successful social commentary, raking in a good eighty-some-odd likes on Facebook; I was happy. I went on to make more work like this in hopes of someone being intrigued by my messages and taking them to heart, or better yet, taking action because of them.
From the start, my purpose was to expose some truth, shed some light on the dark places on which we tend not to focus, and make sure that everyone knew that everything we observe is not reality.
I often noted with my work how robotic life felt to me. Wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, feel completely drained, and then go to sleep. It was repetitive, and I thought I would point that out, because I felt like it was something we could all relate to. We have felt that before. That sense of being out of touch with your own humanity... or maybe it was just me.
In many ways, as I struggled with my health, both mental and physical, I used photography as an artistic outlet, something in my life I could have control over. I tried to show people that everything is not what it seemed, and even "perfect" girls could break down or fall apart. I often tried to show people that I wasn't feeling quite right without coming right out and saying it.
Over the past year I have realized that authenticity, or real life, is what I have been trying to capture all along. At first I did so with some surreal images, but now I am going to attempt to do so with images of every day life. It may sound boring, but this study is perhaps one that is closest to my heart. Although all of my studies are truly important to me, this one makes me feel empowered as an individual, to no longer create, but rather to look, watch, observe life, and simply document it.
Make a documentary. That was on my bucket list: it was a lifelong dream of mine, and I am hoping some day I will get to finish one. I was working on documenting the intriguing similarities and discrepancies between the outlooks of elderly men and women in an old folks home and young children from my church. I had a blast doing it, but I never got to finish it due to some unforeseen circumstances.
But I see this as my chance to prove that photos can be just as powerful and thought-provoking as a moving picture film. I believe the things I will find on this journey will give us all some insight into human nature and expose some unattractive realities that we must all consider. Art speaks to our humanity, it pulls on our heartstrings and calls us to slow down and pay attention to our actions. I am hoping that these photos will not only evoke a sense of enlightenment, sympathy, and catharsis, but also ones of laughter, joy, and understanding.
So here is to the start of something new and real.