History, Part 4

This is my 4th history post, written on October 28th of 2011 shortly after I moved to Dearborn, Michigan.

I’m now living in Dearborn, MI, and have been since early February of 2011. After being moved around I’m finally settling in and getting back on my feet. It’s been one crazy year where everything I was working on pulled in another direction almost directly after the move. As the open series Fantasy in the Real World and The Real World is Just Another Illusion piqued my interest I began to move further away from traditional photography into composites almost exclusively.

My collection of “environments” and “people” from my Even Nostalgia Isn’t as Good as it Used to be series was growing at a rapid pace and suddenly all I could think of was ways of combining images together.

A statue of Jesus on the cross next to another statue of a smaller man inside of an abandoned room with streamers thrown about
Give Me a J

This series deals with iconography juxtaposed with environments on the brink of collapse. As entertainment constantly reinvents itself iconography strives to remain based on imaginary principles, principles that are residing on top of sand (or in this case abandoned environments). I decided to use “commercialism” and “Hollywood” together because I don’t believe they can co-exist together indefinitely. All of these images were based on some form of iconography. I decided to have 13 total images from this series because the number 13 is used so much in our American dollar bill.

After this odd series (which really started after visiting the abandoned “Klinging House” in Ohio) my family and I went to Florida for a week vacation.

Airplane wing in isolation against a clear blue sky

After this trip to Florida was over I found myself overwhelmed with images. I was able to manage one closed series from this trip. That was Memory 19 which came from sitting on the beach experimenting with binoculars over my camera lens. I noticed right away the somewhat random light leaks and played around with this effect while capturing and using the new magnification to stalk random people on the beach. The concept of this series was to select the best “voyeuristic snapshots” I could out of the 100 or so I took. This particular series was shot on February 22 of 2011.

9 images of random people on the beach of all ages

On April 14th I happened to stay up all night sorting through these Florida images getting a sense of what to do with them.

Two vehicles in a parking lot structure photographed from a very low angle at night
Upscale Parking

Along with this image from Florida, I decided to clean house and get through all of the images sitting around collecting virtual dust. The strongest image of the few I decided to keep “Snow Death,” which eventually landed itself in the open series Fantasy in the Real World. This image was completely real with little photoshopping. Getting the mood right was the tricky part of the course, and perhaps that’s why it sat around for such a long time. Special thanks to my brother Jacob and Phil Selander for helping build this freakshow with me!

A snow sculpture who looks dead and will soon melt away
Snow Death

Along with “Snow Death” led to the realization that my photography needed a new look. Static photographic images, composited or not, needed only be one weapon in my arsenal. This was a period of intense job hunting and a lot of issues were coming up for me. Of all the questions one really stuck out: “What purpose or benefit is your work serving?” Well, it really wasn’t serving anyone. All of my personal work is just that… personal. So how does one make money with these kinds of images?

An airplane icon and building on fire with orange sky effect
Point Zero

This image above was more or less an experiment with graphic design. The inspirational point of this image came from listening to 9/11 conspiracies and reviewing the artwork (concept digital paintings) from the game Dead Space 2. Part of me pushed for that direction to get away from photography.

This thought was short-lived as an opportunity for me to travel to Alabama and document the tornado wreckage with a local church became priority #1.

These images presented a new opportunity for me. Using my one and only lens at the time, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, I decided to take a series of vertical shots from left to right in order to encompass the entirety of what I witnessed. For these images to be fully appreciated one must take into account the surroundings.

A wide shot of an entire neighborhood completely destroyed by a tornado (Pleasant Grove, Alabama)
Pleasant Grove Landscape
A white vehicle smashed and battered, surrounded by piles of rubble from tornado damage (Pleasant Grove, Alabama)
Pleasant Grove Alabama
A diptych of a home nearly completely destroyed by a tornado, photographed at dusk (Pleasant Grove, Alabama)
Peace Came That Didn’t Belong to Me 01-02

After this series was completed I was exhausted from photography but felt compelled to continue. However, a vacation is what I needed and that is exactly what I did.  I attended “Chas-Fest” with some friends from Spring Arbor college I hadn’t seen in a while. Not a lot of images were taken because, as I said, I needed to get away from my camera for a while. However, on the trip to another friend leaving the event I managed to snap some shots of us driving on the freeway.

Failsafe, no.9
Failsafe, no.9

The thought process behind this closed series was that so much time is literally erased from memory while driving. Think about it. You drive for 3+ hours. How much of that trip can you actually remember? Well if you’re like me, only bits and pieces stick out. Specific moments rarely stick out in the correct sequence and sometimes entire hours evaporate without remembering anything you have seen. Sure you saw a lot of things, but memory is a funny thing in that it remembers what it decides is important.

Almost immediately after getting back into town I was called on an adventure with my sisters at-the-time boyfriend Joe Krug. He wanted to show me some crazy parts of the west side of Detroit and after seeing my fair share of destruction, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

An Unknown Abandoned School
An Unknown Abandoned School, no.1

The title of this open series When We Live Mechanical Lives We Are Living in Real Nihilism (now discontinued) came about much later when I was thinking about the way people in desperate situations often continue along the same ineffective thought process. The definition of nihilism is that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. It really upsets me when I see places like this in Detroit. It’s not a problem with race or even money. It’s a problem with the systems installed that govern us. Given little options to succeed how do you expect many of these people to find success? What do you think you would do? Before you answer that question. Remember: you are probably taking for granted more than you give credit for.

The truth is right here in this paragraph. My concepts, my ideas, my “themes,” all of that. Well, they really came to consciousness after the work was created by play and personal experimentation through the unconscious dance I play in my head while spending hours upon hours on the computer developing an image or series of images. Maybe that’s the point of all this: Evolution through (somewhat random and sporadic) mutations in a thought process and execution.

In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude”, or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless absurd world.

My entire college career in art school did NOT teach this line of thought. In my sculpture class, this kind of thinking was laughed at. “Plan it ahead” was all I heard. “Have a reason for your thought process” was drilled into me. “What is your intent?” “It’s only come to my full awareness now that NO ONE has the right to determine how “art” is created or what the correct way to make art is. In the end, we’re all just people trying to figure this whole thing out.

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