My work has been misconstrued, on the very rare occasion, to be of the photographic field of documentary. I often photograph people and places and try to tell my audience something about them, but rarely can that something be seen on the surface. I use the medium of photography to create symbols for an abstract meaning because I will never see truth in the photographic image. I am subjective, and my pictures reflect that.
I think, when I realized that there is no way to truly represent something that exists in reality, photography came a lot more easily. Now, I can only understand the photographs I make as an interpretation of something that I experienced and understood for a moment in time. There is the context that surrounded it, but all I can show you is a picture.
Today, in class, I showed a photograph of my cousin, Mica. We went into the wetlands of the Colorado River near my grandparents home in Yuma, Arizona with my uncle and aunt. When we first arrived, we were swarmed by mosquitos. They bit through our clothes. We watched as their engorged bodies landed on our arms and legs. We had to leave and I needed to change my shoes. We went back to my grandparents home, sprayed ourselves with repellent, and returned.
It was hot. If you think it’s hot here, Yuma is usually 5+ degrees warmer. It was humid too, but only just enough to add to the discomfort. We were sweating and trying to stay hydrated. Mica was, as always, being a difficult subject to photograph. We took a few photos in a spot near a bridge, and then moved to the other side, finding a small shaded area where the branches arched inwards and the sun came through like a spotlight. I asked her to stand at the center where these elements converged. I composed the photograph. She stood confrontationally, looking the camera dead on. We took two photos before she wanted to move on.
I developed the film on Tuesday. I printed the photo Wednesday after class. After I made the print I noticed things that I didn’t see when I took the photo. I noticed how the photo we produced does not feel like the situation we experienced. Mica looked both fragile and strong in this environment that she seems to be a part of. The branches are both containing her and she is holding them at bay with her presence.
She kept wiping the sweat from her face. She was running away from any leaves that rustled in the wind. She was afraid of the mosquitos that would come and go without biting her. She wanted a cheeseburger when she was done. She wanted to go back to the car. She was thirsty. She was hot. She was tired. Mostly she wanted a cheeseburger.
As always, I had trouble keeping her still enough to set up the picture. I was uncomfortable beneath the dark cloth I had over my head. I was afraid I wouldn’t get a good photo of her for my thesis show. But we somehow did it. You wouldn’t know it, but this photo represents nothing more than what you see on paper. It represents what you want to believe.