Today I’m going deep into the archives for a piece that I did over twenty years ago. It’s actually really cool to look back and this piece ties directly to someone who I’ve found incredibly inspirational even though I will probably have the pleasure of meeting them in person.
This piece was a project for a photography class I took back in college. I shot it on a special type of film called Kodalith, which is a really interesting type of film since it only captures black and white with little to no grey tones. My subject was an antique doll that had been in my family for over 100 years. The original dress had pretty much disintegrated but I fashioned a new dress for her and set her up to photograph using a crochet lace table-cloth as a backdrop.
The purpose of the project was to combine imagery and words, taking a quote from a book and pairing the words to the photograph. The book I choose to pull a quote from was Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
“Yet more and more her doll-like face seemed to possess two totally aware adult eyes, and innocence seemed lost somewhere with neglected toys and the loss of a certain patience.”
I’d first discovered Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles when I was about thirteen and I devoured every book of hers I could get my hands on. There was a texture to her writing style that appealed to me, and her use of language, but what really drew me to Anne Rice was how authentically she could write about pain, suffering, grief, and love and longing.
When I wrote about my mother, I mentioned that she had struggled her whole life with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Well, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree and when I entered adolescence, I too started to show signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.
It was a rough time for me, and one of the ways I dealt with things was to escape into literature. Reading Interview with the Vampire, I’d felt as though I’d found another kindred soul in the world and it was through reading the works of Anne Rice that I started to see how I could turn something painful and difficult within myself into something more, something greater, something beautiful. I learned that my art could be a tool I could use to get through the tough times, to deal with the dark feelings. I could experiment with different ideas and feelings through writing or imagery that wasn’t really acceptable to express in any other way.
I am alive today because I used my art and my writing to talk myself out of doing things that would have caused irreparable harm to myself. It allowed me to feel what I felt in a way that was constructive so I didn’t drown in a pit of despair. I’m here today because I saw what Anne Rice had done with Interview with the Vampire and I wanted to do the same thing… just in my own way.
Looking at this photograph twenty years later, it’s clearly a picture taken by a student. It’s interesting, but technically not very good– my composition is off, and I didn’t really use the film’s capabilities to its full advantage. But I love this picture because twenty years ago it was a teeny little tribute to someone whose work had meant so much to a young woman who had been very lost and confused.
I look at it today and I can see how far I’ve come, and yet I still use those same skills I developed all those years ago. For me, art is life.