“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I allow myself to fall in love with these people.” ~Annie Leibovitz
Never have I so fully and comprehensibly digested the words of an artist more than these, spoken by one of my biggest influences. It’s a thing of joy and a real pitfall as well. It’s easy to be careless in the moment, my moment, really, and to forget that the word in general does not operate by these same emotional strings that I am constantly dangling from. I’m quick to the recognition of kinship while I’m shooting. I’m also quick to the disconnect if it’s present. This is true whether I am consciously making art with someone in my home, some other already decided upon location, or whether I stop someone on the street and beg them for a capture.
Recently, I walked through a grocery store with my friend Drew, in a town I had never been in, and where he was the only person I knew. I had just met with him from a solo drive lush with nature. I had also just parted ways with a brand new friend who wears his pain like a garment that no one has told him he’s allowed to take off. I was visually and artistically hyper-sensitive, and as we walked through the store, the translucent blue eyes of stranger screamed at me. A child’s hair caught the light and framed her strangely shaped face. The spidery fingers of an old woman grabbed onto me, unbeknownst to her, and I could not walk away. These images were like tiny shockwaves in my steps. I didn’t have my camera and it felt like I’d missed the train on my way to meet a lover.
It’s in these moments that I am reminded of my purpose and unspoken duty to other people. I’m not attracted to what I would consider to be the patriarchal idea of what beauty is; grossly deceptive, manufactured by advertisements expertly designed to acutely attack our deepest-rooted insecurities. I don’t believe that beauty occurs as a reaction to outside stimuli. I believe that it cannot exist without humility, which means that I think it is quite rare. So to find it, to put my hands all over it, is one of the only things that truly satiates me. This is why I make pictures, and this is why I am attracted to the tragedy within others. To revisit this feeling of what my purpose is… I encounter people who are silently begging for this touch, for someone or something to release their traumatic burdens in a way that they themselves cannot do alone. I have found in my work, from when I was very young, that everyone (including myself) that I have penned into my stories and into my world, everyone whose images I have pressed in between cellophane pages, and everyone who’s letters and art that I have collected over the years, are all begging to be free of something huge. Simply, the world cannot exist without artists of all kinds who are willing to step into the darkest places.
The Song on this Post is: Tragedy click here By The Wipers. It’s three verses, one of which is repeated, and that’s all it needs for each verse to bellow its anger at you for every time you’ve ever walked away from every fucked up and humble mess that was unmistakenly beautiful. The song is that perfect example of how Punk Rock has always been able to flawlessly translate the core humanistic values behind what “growing up punk” truly means; an assailment of truth from the mouth and mind of frontman Greg Sage. Beauty is Not everywhere. It’s underneath an acrid pile of shit. And this is not to be confused with having hope that you will always find it if you look. I once told my therapist that I truly do not know what “Hope” is supposed to feel like. I don’t believe that I’ve ever felt it. I do what I do out of a compulsion that I cannot shake and of a compassion for others that I’m not always allowed to put into words. Mapplethorpe once said that Beauty and The Devil are the same thing. I don’t carry the same Catholic guilt that he openly did, but metaphorically speaking, I’d agree. I’m of the mindset that I’d be a fool to believe it was something I didn’t have to claw my way through the seemingly impenetrable to find.
The portraits throughout this post were all made during those moments that I allowed myself to fall in love with. Enjoy.