"Still" was one of five mini exhibitions that made up the "[insert word here]" exhibition. "[insert word here]" was curated by Dr. Stefka Hristova and was featured at the Copper Country Community Art Center's Kerredge Gallery in February 2020.
It started as a study of the differences between film and digital photography. What inspired me to photograph scars was the one that I have on my back from having scoliosis correction surgery at the age of twelve. A part of my identity lies in that fibrous tissue, an experience that is much deeper and intricate than what is observable on the surface. This made me think about other people who also have been noticeably branded by life. What are their experiences? What are their stories?
I used the “Still” exhibition to reflect on my own experience with trauma. Although the stacked photos of my models create a way for the audience to compare the differences between the digital photos and the film photos, the stacked photos also create vertical barriers on the gallery wall, like vertical barriers of bars on a jail cell. I use this as a visual analogy to represent feeling like a prisoner inside your own body, a prisoner of your situation, a prisoner of your circumstances. The landscape photo orientation changing to a portrait photo orientation is an analogy for how trauma literally flips you from your sense of orientation. Eventually you find yourself feeling a sense of grounding again; I show this when the photo position eventually goes back to that landscape orientation.
However, how you are after trauma is not the same as how you were before trauma. With film— because you are working with light—no matter how large or how small you scale film photos, you never lose information. My lake photo starts with the film version of the photo to represent a person before trauma. When you work with digital photos, because you are working with pixels, information gets lost in the photo depending on how you scale it; similarly, when a person goes through trauma, things get lost in that process. The acknowledgment of the loss that results from trauma is shown through the use of the digital version of the lake photo at the end.
The last photo of the dead end sign was sporadic and unplanned. There was something beautiful about the weathered dead end sign and the vision of the road continuing on. Including this photo interrupted the original layout that I had designed. The original layout was symmetrical, and I had a set plan for how this exhibition was going to look… but when is life symmetrical with a set plan? Instead of trying to fight the now flaw in my once-symmetrical layout, I let it happen. Some flaws also came up in a couple of my film prints during different stages of the development process. Instead of fixing or redoing the prints, I decided to leave them as-is as a way of representing the flaws that occur with life, with trauma, with scars.
The exhibition is called “Still” because it shares the same concept as the memoir that I was writing about myself of the same name. The title is based on the phrase “still waters run deep”; there is more that goes beyond what is visible on the surface.
Model 1: Me
Scoliosis correction surgery, traumatic brain injury and skull fracture
Model 2: Stephy
Cystic fibrosis, 719th recipient of a lung transplant, 358th recipient of a bilateral lung transplant from the University of Michigan hospital.
Model 3: Mom
Three brain abscesses that resulted from having three abscessed wisdom teeth removed and not receiving antibiotics for the infections, resulting in those infections traveling up to her brain. Three brain surgeries, 2% survival rate for each procedure (0.0008% total survival rate).
Model 4: Kristina
Complicated pregnancy. The film photo gives a glimpse into how much medical intervention was required to bring her daughter into the world.