Portfolio-Immersion

   

 

 

To know a place in all it’s little intimacies; to be engulfed.

 

When I was in the hospital…because that’s really where it starts, isn’t it?  When I was in the hospital…Inescapable fact.  When I was in the hospital, I felt like I would never be well again.  When I was in the hospital, I thought about Blacks Run.  A lot. Because, like me, it too was damaged.  When I left the hospital and came back into the world of cameras and body image and expectations, I began again to use the water as a metaphor for my own pain.  By soaking my negatives in polluted water from the stream, I am able to give the water its own action; to form my images out water as well as light; to deface the self in the same way that depression has stripped me of parts and pieces of my identity.

 

Nudity has become a way to signify my own vulnerability.  When I remove my clothing for the camera, I remove the façade that I wear for the world; all of those objects and symbols that say “I look ok, therefore I AM ok”.  Because I’m not. Unclothed, my skin becomes a blank canvas, ready to wear the projections of a polluted stream that signify my inner world.  At the same time that the projected images change my body, my body changes them, changes how they look and are perceived just as my own actions impact that waterway.

 

On a pedestal, the body becomes objectified, much like the passive landscape before the eye of the camera.  But my body isn’t perfect.  Not even close; riddled with scars, chemicals running through my veins so that I can achieve functionality. Blacks Run, too, is imperfect: filled with the detritus of modern life, feminized into submission by hundreds of years of Western culture telling us that nature is female (and therefore, like women, subject to the dominion of men).  We echo each other, becoming stand-ins for each other’s scars.

 

When I was in the hospital, I didn’t have control-over what I ate, my emotions, my ability to stand outside in the sun.  By destroying my negatives in polluted water, I give up control over the resulting image.  My images themselves are imperfect, taken from in front of the camera with a long shutter release cable.  I can only approximate the outcome.  Often, these images include the tools of my trade, destroying the illusions of perfection that still permeate the world of portrait photography.   These actions destroy, too, the sanctity of the large format negative, and ultimately allow these works to become echoes of my own imperfections, to give voice to my inner pain, and to comment on the role of the feminine as the subject of the lens.   

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© 2023 by JACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

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