I’m interested in my autobiography through storytelling via pictures and words. From a young age, I experimented with narrative photography. I’m continually interested in how language and imagery can influence each other. These photographs are a self-exploration of mundane and unique occurrences that look at familiarity and intimacy. My aim is to craft believable and enticing stories of my personal life for audiences to enjoy.
I’m inspired by personal anecdotes from past occurrences and use language as a form of visual recollection. This mode of storytelling is inspired by Tony Mendoza’s autobiographical work that conveys unique, and often comical, experiences that rely on memoir, and fiction to produce captivating, and relatable stories. This type of art-making creates an overt break from hefty conceptual material; yet, it still invites philosophy, belief, and morality from a first-person viewpoint to talk about anything, from a political view to a childhood experience.
There were many things that came to mind when I first decided on this project. Initially, I was thinking back to a series I had done in 2016. It was my first real experimentation with self-portraiture, and my first explicit experimentation with using my artistry as a medium to talk about personal issues.
I hadn’t practiced self-portraiture to that extent since finishing that project, that is, until the Spring of 2017. The thought to focus on my own experiences for an art project came from a conversation with my Thesis professor, Jessica.
After reviewing some ideas and notes that I had given her, she urged me to move forward and to give an extensive project about my experiences a try. I had wanted to work on a project of this type for quite a while but had been too hesitant. I listened to Jessica, and gave the project a go.
As expected, I was unsure of everything because I had plenty of (what I now believe are normal and predictable) doubts about such a project: who is the/is there an audience for such a project? Is something like this considered art or is it considered entertainment? Can art and entertainment be combined? Will I as an artist, be viewed as highly egotistical for promoting such a project?
None of these questions could be answered right away. I had a lot of work to create. Of course, I was plagued with that big question: what parts of my life do I want to present? A question that had for quite some time.
Initially, my process involved going through my old archive of photographs. I sorted through years worth of images, all the way back to when I first picked up a camera. I originally thought I was going to create a project that relied heavily on archived/found images. Instead, I realized at some point that I was picking out images that sparked specific, detailed stories in my mind.
I began using these images that I had chosen from the rest with this (somewhat) random limitation to write short descriptions. These descriptions, after discussing my work—pictures and revealing captions at this point—with my peers, became short stories.
Discussing my work with my peers was quite helpful. It made me realize that people, if given the chance, will at least give your work some of their time initially, regardless of what it’s about or who made it. My peers also helped me realize that every individual will gravitate towards different stories, therefore, it was important for me to decide on what kind of audience I would like to cater to.
I was not concerned about catering towards any audience. I was concerned about telling the stories that I wanted to tell. Yet, the more thought that I gave to considering my audience, the easier time I had deciding on what stories to tell. I wanted to write and present intimate stories, ones that aren’t shy about being explicit and uncomfortable. That’s when I realized that if I write and focus on stories like that, that I would attract audiences interested in the same ideas.
I spent probably a month after that strictly writing my stories. It was at this point in the process that I realized just how difficult writing full-time can be. I spent hours cooped up in my room, staying in my head-space. But I still had some difficulty writing. It was at this point that I also realized that I didn’t know the style that I wanted to write in.
Thankfully, I had more peers to help me figure this out. They asked me a very simple question: are you able to tolerate being slightly fictitious with some parts of your writing? When I started out on the project by rummaging through my archives, I was unable to tolerate fiction. But by this point, I realized that the stories I wanted to write were based on memory, which is too fickle to being 100% accurate anyway. So, I didn’t stress if some parts of my writing weren’t completely right.
Barry, another colleague, had also mentioned that I check out The Art of Memoir from the library. I followed his advice and it helped incredibly. That book taught me more about how memoir writing works than I ever would’ve figured out on my own. That book helped jumpstart my writing process and I got back to it.
After the month was over, I had finished the rough drafts on the stories I was most excited with. Simultaneously, I was coping with the writing process. Why? Because, this was the first time that I had sent my work off to an editor.
Jessica hounded me about how important it is to have someone else review your own writing. She was right, but the process of seeing my “child” change hurt a little because it felt less like my child the more that it changed. I have no regrets about it though. In fact, I’m glad that I’m much more positive about multiple drafts and editing sessions.
At the end of that same month, I began making photos. It was more time that I spent alone, re-experiencing my past (emotions and all), and playing the caricature of myself as a character. I was performing myself in front of the camera, which is a strange thought to have when you think about it.
The photo-making process was pretty simple for me. Because the photos for this project were acting as illustrations of written events, it was like following a step-by-step guide. By following my own stories, quite literally, I could imagine what the shots would look like roughly.
I enjoyed making the images for this project. Regardless of whether I was out after midnight roaming the streets, or trekking through forest, I was happy. In fact, I had a ton of fun!
Post-production was a little less fun though. I’m pretty good at editing my images quickly (it’s like second nature at this point) but I did get tired of seeing myself over and over again rather quickly. I suppose I understand how vloggers and artists like Cindy Sherman feel now.
Around this time, I started putting my book together. Let me tell you, putting a book together is not easy. At least, putting together an art book is not easy. I found the sequencing of my images to be relatively easy. I’ve always been pretty good at knowing what order my photos should be in and how they can be read.
But a book is a different ballpark. I’m not just sequencing images one after the other; I’m also organizing my photos on a blank page (and thankfully, not next to text for this project.) How and where a singular image or group of images sit on one page or a whole spread, as well as their relationship to each other because of positioning and page sequencing, is a complex matter.
I cannot count how many hours I spent in InDesign flipping back and forth between options. And of course, I continuously kept asking for feedback with its production. Feedback always helps to strengthen your work, and it’s important for any artist.
It’s actually quite startling how many eyes need to see something before the final product is announced. The same went for my stories. Even choosing how many stories to include was difficult. I wanted to include lots, but I also learned while working on this project that less is usually more.
I had decided, after investigating how other artists have tackled photos and extensive texts, to play off of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by keeping the text and images separate. And finally combining the two elements, I was able to finish the work.
Now that the work has come to completion, I do have some thoughts about it as a whole. I mean, I’ve gotten feedback from close friends and colleagues, and they all say that it’s among some of my best work. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it all though.
I definitely do think that it deserves some praise from myself. I worked hard on it and I am proud of completing it (at least for now.) But, I still have that lingering question that hasn’t been answered: who is this for? I’m not sure. Being frank, it might solely be a work that’s just for me; then again, many who have read the work have found it extremely relatable and worthwhile.
I cannot say for certain where this work will go and where it will take me. I can say a few things though:
— I had fun making it
— I can make a book and do it well
— I like making books
— It’s OK to make a project about yourself
— Self-Portraiture is not as easy as it looks
— I finally tackled a project I really wanted to try out
— It was a great experiment
I think that’s all I need to say about this work. I’m not sure what will come next but I am always excited to start the next thing!