Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fun in the Sun: My Story

"If we don't tell our own stories, no one else will tell them." Lately, I've been reading Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, a collection of anecdotes from the author's radio show Studio 360 showcasing and investigating various noteworthy creative people's artistic processes. Filmmaker Mira Nair's discussion about using her personal history to inspire her films stuck out to me.

 I rarely turn the camera on myself, instead focusing on telling others' stories. However, there is something to be said for remembering your own narrative. So this year when my family took the annual beach trip, I brought along my trusty Vivitar 3800 and a couple rolls of Fujifilm color to document the vacation. I didn't want to just take the typical beach selfies and ocean shots that troll the Instagrammaverse, but I wasn't striving to capture any mold-breaking photos either (although I certainly wouldn't throw them out.) I wanted to just capture the essence of fun and relaxation, however I saw it. Because I can't just casually take photographs of family fun at the beach (for better or for worse I had to turn it into a thought-out series; one of the hazards of spending too much time in photography class, I suppose) I decided to see how my family takes on a beach vaca versus the rest of the burnt-to-a-crisp ocean visitors.

To do so, I layered generic "beachy" shots with images of my family, myself, or things I found interesting, sometimes even just with other "beachy" scenes. I did this through multiple exposure, meaning I shot the roll and wound it as far back to the beginning as I could go without completely winding in the film for development (I probably made a rather funny site standing on the beach camera in one hand, grasping the reel with the other, intent expression on my face, turning the reel ever so painstakingly as I tried to feel the tension to know how far I'd wound the film) and then shot the whole roll again. I had to, of course, take into account that layering exposures in-camera necessitates shutter speed and aperture tweaks to avoid overexposure, so the whole experiment was fun and a bit nerve-wracking since I didn't really know how the photos would turn out.

I was very happy with the quality of the photographs overall - a pleasant aesthetic change from the sharp and color-saturated digital shots I tend to capture - and am especially pleased with the 1960s quality of color that the multiple exposures created. That the exposures did not overlap exactly within the same plane makes them all the more imperfectly interesting, the darker lines simply create a geometric frame. It is the story that these collaged images tell that I'm most excited about. Of course, the narrative probably means more to me than it does to the general public, but sometimes the more personal the images to the photographer, the more relatable to the audience. Scenes of playing in the ocean, reading on the beach, enjoying time spent with family - all normal beach activities - interwoven with visual metaphors for my propensity for daydreaming (guess which surreal photo that is) and distaste for large crowds, create a collage of what comes to my mind first regarding the beach.

A lot of artists don't like explaining their work, rather they let it speak for itself. There is nothing wrong with that. But, to me, there is a kind of vulnerability in telling how I conceptualized and perceive my finished project, allowing the viewers to decide for themselves whether they see the same message. What's more, as a soft-spoken observer, I rarely share my thoughts candidly, instead choosing to illustrate them through photographs and vivid writing, an art in itself. This series, capturing my personal experience in a place by overlaying generic popular images of it and personal experiences there, is one that I intend to continue in my (hopefully soon) world travels in a pursuit to devour culture and drink in art of societies around the globe. I create art not solely for the joy of the creation (though that is certainly part of it) but to share that joy of my creative experience with others, to show the importance of art in all of our lives. So in continuing this series, I intend to share the beauty of personal artistic experiences (relatable to all) with whomever will listen - and see.