This Time is Kinda Like the Last Time
Before I tell you about my work, I’d like to offer an apology to everyone who has ever trusted me to love them. I want you to know I can write ten pages about the way you look when you wake up in the morning. I can describe the smell of your neck on the day you were born. When we are apart, I draw—over and over again—the arch of your foot so I can sleep. I have a name for the specific color for each and every hair on your head. But it’s almost impossible for me to make it to that appointment or to pay that bill on time, to find my way to your friend’s house to pick you up… to remember your birthday. I’m just no good with numbers and time is a number. Please forgive me.
When I was a kid, I could stop time. I could close my eyes and levitate—walk around people or things chronicling every bit of what I see. I’m not sure if anyone noticed me doing this. I don’t think they did. I could make myself invisible—we all can… in fact, I think we do so quite frequently. Any way—somewhere around 1999, I realized there was a glitch in my programming. I started to jumble up places and times and details I had so meticulously stored in my memory. All the parts were there, however, it became difficult to keep memories contiguous. It was clear to me that the last time I experienced something or embraced someone or looked at anyone or anything and said “you are lovely” might be the last time I will remember doing so. The last time might truly have been the last time.
In response, I’ve created a different method for cataloging all of these precious moments. I document what I want to hold and I spend days and days pouring over the detail of each image, trying to strip away what is immaterial so I can be left with the texture and beauty of that moment. It’s a solemn process for me in the way that I don’t want to take any bit of the process for granted. And still—in doing this work, I separate myself from the very experiences I want to hold close. Admittedly, my relationship to my work is complicated. Irony is dependent on time, and they are both more than a bit tragic.
How I make these pieces (technically)
Typically, I create my images as composites of digital and Polaroid content. The positive image of the Polaroid exposure—the ”good part“—is discarded and I hold on to the paper negative hanging it up to measure time by capturing bits of debris that happen upon it and watching as the emulsion crystalizes over time. A year or so later, grain by grain and pixel by pixel, the digital and Polaroid images are combined in an attempt to replicate my recollection of the moment when the originals were captured. The process is a metaphor.
Every time I open a file, I inevitably change something about it—maybe it’s the color, or how a spec of dust falls on a shoulder. It’s never exactly how I remembered it and so I’m constantly making adjustments. All of the pieces evolve over time as my recollection changes over time. They are never the same pieces twice.
Polaroid is no longer making large format film. I scour the internet for vintage stock which usually keeps me awake until the sun rises. I have to find good sources of expired material because so much is dependent on that. It’s quite curious how the closing of this once majestic company on the Charles River is tied to how I hold on to most everything in my life. I thought Polaroid would be there forever.