Photo Thesis I
Thesis was a scary thought. I mean, I’m already here aren’t I? I’m in my senior year so my thesis has come to cuddle with me. And I cuddled back, sometimes…
So, in my thesis class, I was able to explore whatever topic I so chose but much like a professional, there are things which I had to do to explain myself as an artist and to legitimize my work.
At the beginning, I chose a concept, had to propose its validity and explain it to colleagues, and write a statement about the work. It’s a lot of labor to put together one body of work let me tell you! And to be frank, the image-making part didn’t go as well as I had hoped at first. The reason really was because I was just behind.
I needed to step up my game but I was just keeping up for a while. I think my work diligence was tested by this class. But what might interest you is the fact that my thesis project was about anxiety disorders.
See, in thesis, you have the entire semester to work on one project. I chose to tackle some in regards to the mental health issue of anxiety and its representation. Now, this project was really a step outside of my realm because I’m not sure what I wanted to do but I’m highly fascinated with the mind. So I figured why not combine the two?
What I found out is that putting together a full project takes a lot more behind-the-scenes work than is made apparent. I mean, I have to write artist statements (which are completely a drag) and even proposals (which are a drag but highly important.) And the work… Oh the work.
Photographing something which is not necessarily visual is very much so hard. I mean, how do you photograph anxiety, especially in a way that is not stereotypical and makes assumptions? It’s hard work. I’ve already put in footwork to interview plenty of people who genuinely have disorders with it and I’m learning so much from them. The more I photograph and try to reach at what anxiety is, the more complicated it gets.
It’s extremely difficult because I don’t suffer from the disorder. I’m an outsider looking into a community, and trying to both understand them and represent them without taking advantage of them. In this effort, my goal is to educate and provide a situation for others who are like me and don’t fully understand it, to come talk about it with those who do.
I’ve had a lot on my shoulders with this project so I’m struggling but I’m still going. But to be truthful, this is the first time where I’ve not been able to really explain my poor performance with a project. In fact, this is the first time I’ve truly struggled with a project and I figured out why only recently.
I’m tackling a big subject and its components all at once. Instead, what I should be doing is addressing each component one at a time and that has made it so much easier to deal with. I can’t say how successful I will be in the future but all I can do is try, and for once, I’m not in control. I have to ride out the waves and see where I end up, which is a risk I hardly take but it has already taught me so much…
By the end of the semester, I manged to get myself together though. I found that working with people and for a cause is extremely rewarding, which is why I’m going to continue this project into my Thesis II class next semester. I may not have gotten the best grade on my final project, but I figured many things out which will help it get better in the future.
My hope, actually, is that I might turn this project into a book at some point. I think that it will be very powerful that way, but, my mind might change at some point. Who knows? All I know right now is that living as an artist, isn’t luxurious at all. It’s nothing but hard work, and somehow, that’s still rewarding for me. Making something that will change, even one person’s mind, is enough to keep me going. I’m glad that this class kicked my butt, because it taught me to love my lumps, and if this is really for me. Thankfully, it is…
Pre-Columbian Art History
Now, how do I explain my relationship to this class? Well, I suppose the easiest way to describe it is a love-hate relationship with mostly hate winning. Yeah. See, I liked the information which I learned in this class but my issues are with the way the class is structured, not necessarily the material.
The class was taught by Elaine Schele, my professor, and she’s a wonderful old lady. She very knowledgeable as one can be for the subject that she’s teaching. See, “Pre-Columbian” refers to art made in Mesoamerica and South America prior to Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas.
So for me, this is definitely out of my range of expertise and routine so I figured why not take a stab at it? Actually, I only signed up for it because it was the only class that fit my schedule nicely at the time, plus I was supposed to be taking it with a few other friends (who all dropped except for one.)
Well, after being in the class for over half the semester, I had that say, that it was a mixed bag. I’m learned so much about the ancient cultures such as the Olmecs, Maya, Aztecs, and those from South America like the Moche, Inka and others. They all are so interesting and I like learning about them, however, I didn’t like the fact that everything felt loose in the class.
When we showed up to take notes in class, we went over a lot of information very quickly and had hardly have time to backtrack if necessary. Plus, Schele (I believe) knew how little we knew about the subject so she treated us like dumb kids. Then again, she also gave us assignments as if we are graduate students who have studied this material for entire years. So, I was conflicted on how to feel about the class.
Thankfully, the class was graded mostly based on participation and effort. The main tests and papers for the class didn’t even count for half of the overall grade, so I had room for error in the class. Thank goodness!
But with each reading and lecture, I learned more and more. I finally came to a point where I knew how to ace the assignments because I developed a system. So I started doing better but I still wish the class had been structured a little bit differently. But I suppose I should give Schele a break. She is only replacing the normal professor for the course for this semester only…
But now at the end of the semester, what I learned completely trumped the structured. I learned to manage and I learned a lot so even if I don’t get the best grade in the class, I don’t care. The knowledge is more important to me. And luckily, I’ll get to keep the textbooks for the class so I can refer back to this knowledge anytime I need to. That’s the good part!
Advanced Digital Photography
This class was one I could definitely get behind! Firstly, I was back with Barry Stone, whom I’ve grown to know very well over the past couple of years. He taught my introductory courses for my major and I am lucky to have him for my advanced courses. Plus, he’s so knowledgeable so it’s no surprise he also is the head of the photography department.
Anyway, aside from being a fantastic teacher, I’m learned a lot from this class. We tackled a lot of things that revolve around how the digital world works in relationship to images and artists. After all, these are things I should be concerned with right?
I made a website (and it’s pretty rough but the effort is what counts) and we moved on to scanning photographic negatives. Now, even though most of this stuff seemed very much like “duh” to me, it was nice to be fully engrossed in it and to really learn it. I mean, I say “duh” because I already run a website (this blog) and I’ve scanned negatives in the past for another class.
(Oh! But let me go into the website part really quickly. So, we used WordPress for our websites, but we had other choices too, so I was already steps ahead of the game! 😉 It made building the actual website very easy because I can navigate WordPress pretty well at this point!)
Now back to my main point. We also printed mural size prints, for the first time. I gotta say, the bigger the prints get, the more appealing some of them are. Honestly, messing with big and small sizes and those in-between, I really appreciate the choices made for the size of particular images. Some photos look better huge and some look better in the palm of your hand.
Even for the final project, while it wasn’t the most successful, it still gave me plenty of ideas to draw from for the future. Plus, learning to how to alter code, and other things was absolutely fantastic. I never thought that code could be so fun but, thankfully, it is. It’s just a lot of hard work and learning.
Ah. But I’m rambling. I think I’ve made it clear that I like this class though. I learned a lot and it was very relaxed (which is so like Barry.) I enjoyed being there and there was always something to learn. It was just fantastic!
One last thing I wanted to say was that the lecture Barry forced us to sit through was spectacular. It was about how math and art combine and relate to one another. I must say that I never thought about the influence of math in art and how math helps us understand art, but I am more aware of that now. I just wish you all were there for it, because it was worth the hour of listening. 🙂
Well, that wraps up what’s been going on in my life on the academic side. There’s the flip-side of this academic view which concerns the extracurricular so I’ll be sure to get into that. Stay tuned for the next part! Cheers!