Instinctive Curiosity, Intentional Connection
Crowd-Created Art for Good
Take part in my art explorations by purchasing work or helping sponsor my upcoming photo book on Indiegogo. All proceeds go to charities featured on The Life You Can Save as we question and discuss the value of digital photography and art in our modern world!
The Short Story
What: I produced a crowd-created collaborative art exhibition showing at Linnea’s in San Luis Obispo throughout this July with opening night during SLO’s first Friday art walk on July 5th. As a follow up, I'm creating a photo book featuring seven years of iPhone photographs, fifty countries, and a dozen journals worth of curiosity — one book that brings it all together to muse about the happenstance artistry of wandering and wondering through our world. An artistic challenge for me, an inspiring, thought-provoking book for you, and all the proceeds go towards saving lives through effective altruism. Read more below for the goals of these productions.
How: You are invited to purchase photographs at the show, make a donation to the Life You Can Save, or sponsor my upcoming book on Indiegogo. All proceeds from the book will also be donated.
Why: In short, these projects fulfill several goals:
Artists take on a lot of financial risk creating and showing their work in a public place and/or publishing. This eliminates that hurdle and will allow me to create an exhibition and book that is paid for by people that see value in the work.
We together get to experiment with collaborative art! I take on the challenge of connecting many different pieces chosen by many different people for many different reasons.
Besides the value of art creating an opportunity for people to see beauty and ponder new ideas, all the profits from the exhibition will go to a worthy cause at The Life You Can Save.
And now, to...
The Long Story
Earlier this spring, I explained to one of my sixth grade students the process I would undertake in college to capture and print a photograph way back in 2008. My professor, Mr. Kimmich, insisted that all of his students take a film photography class before any digital one. He received a lot of pushback from journalism faculty and admin that worried we would not be prepared to enter the workforce with such antiquated knowledge filling the time and space that could be used for more marketable skills. Mr. Kimmich persisted, standing firmly on his ground that film would not just imbue a reverence for the craft, but also teach all the basics of photography more concretely.
Have you ever developed your own film and printed from negatives in a darkroom? It is a dedicated undertaking spanning hours and requiring incredible attention to detail, so much so that the images you capture could be entirely lost with the smallest mistake like forgetting to lock the processing door or absentmindedly miscalculating the time or ratios in chemical solutions or even just struggling to unfurl and wrap the film strip while fumbling around in the dark.
Using a film camera, developing that film, and then using those negatives to print photographs in a darkroom is a meditation. It requires absolute focus, an absence of distraction and multitasking, patience in myself that I miss, a gratitude for every single shot that I struggle to recreate now with a high resolution iPhone camera in my pocket at all times...
I received my first digital camera as a high school graduation gift from my mom. I could take as many photos as I wanted until my memory card ran out. It was easy to get overwhelmed not just by the volume of photographs, but also the feeling that I needed to document everything, that I could find the perfect shot by clicking as many times as I wanted, etc. etc. etc. Have you ever gotten stuck trying to decide which of the upteen variations of the same shot is the best one? And then when you can’t decide you just share five or ten of practically the same shot? Excess much?
When I was leaving for my trip around the world in 2011, I received an iPhone, also a gift from my mom, and soon discovered instagram, before it got bought up by Facebook and became what it is today, full of ads and marketing, videos, and multi-shot posts. In the beginning, I loved its simplicity. Choose one photo and one only. It put intention back into my practice, helped me curate a best of during my travels, allowed me to edit and keep things uncomplicated...
I’m lost again now, maybe more than ever. Some days I question what the point of any photograph is when there are so many images flooding over me, true that it may be self-inflicted, since I am a willing participant on the internet. Some sort of magic has disappeared in excess. Logging on to social media is like opening floodgates: a deluge of images batter me from every direction, some inspiring, others manipulative, many needless, and soon I feel that little is left undocumented or to surprise. I miss the magic of hidden corners, of living a moment rather than attempting to document it perfectly.
I want to bring meaning back to the photographs I’ve already taken and will take in the future. I want using any camera to be a way to fuel presence, deepen my connections with people, do good, and share humanness and novelty. I want my photographs to be an antidote to technological disruption, excess, isolation and distraction…
At my first and last photo exhibition, I tried to link seemingly different photographs together by finding some sort of sameness in them, hoping that viewers could not only pick up on this theme on interconectedness, but also just make personal connections to the images and start talking about them to one another and to me. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of dialogue created, by the camaraderie created among strangers through sharing images of my travels that meant something to me.
While the exhibition was an inspiring endeavor on many levels, I left in the hole, exhausted from the undertaking of it, mostly performed on late nights and weekends when I wasn’t teaching yoga or fifth graders, with a big credit card bill and a lot of leftover prints. I assured myself it was worth it, a sacrifice I could manage.
Fast forward to now, an era when we are being tracked and sold on the internet most of the time. Media giants are allowed to create digital profiles of us, sell them, and make enormous profits, obstructing our privacy and manipulating how we see the world. There’s so much legalese and jargon in all those policies we click through, it’s hard to know how our information is being used. Is it true that Facebook can use our images for free, in advertisements that they make huge earnings from, while we remain uncompensated at best, our personal data literally pilfered and stolen for profit? It's happened so fast many of us aren’t even aware of its dangers and are blinded by the idea that free is better, wrapped up in marketing ourselves on the internet. Everything feels devalued, to me anyway...
I’ve grappled with how to use Instagram in a positive way, if even possible, or if I should just call it quits like I did on Facebook years ago. Do I delete my website? Change my name? Do I want a web presence at all? Can I live my life without a screen, by word-of-mouth and person-to-person connection? I have a feeling the answer lies in intentional balance.
This exhibition is an experiment in that...
Building off the ideas of interconnectedness in my last exhibition, I’ve decided to crowd-create this one. Choosing some of my favorite images, I am inviting friends and family to sponsor the photographs that speak to them and explain why. From those chosen photographs, I will create the exhibition, relying both in my own intuition and ability to connect to bring all the pieces together into a cohesive whole. These pieces will be for sale to the public, but sponsors will receive the originals if they are not purchased. In this way, the exhibition is paid for by people that find enough value in my work to pay it forward. Additional prints of these chosen works may be purchased, and the money will go towards the other incidental expenses incurred in creating this exhibition (namely, paying back some of the childcare hours required for me to make this happen). Once these expenses are covered, all of the remaining money will go towards effective altruism via Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, which aims to motivate the public to give to organizations that do the most good per dollar, providing transparency on their impact and valuing the lives of all people equally.
My hope is that this exhibition allows me to share my work in a meaningful and inspiring way. Viewers will get to enjoy the visual, but be provoked to think deeper about some of the most important issues facing us today: technological disruption, the rise of isolation and the need for community, the costs of what appears to be free, the significance of art and creativity, personal values and how they align with our actions, and how to give back in meaningful, effective ways.
This is a complicated, interconnected web, surely, but so then is life.
I could write much more, but I’d rather leave the rest of this work to be explored, through reflection, meditation, and conversation.
Thank you for taking part.
Help make my photo book a reality! Visit my Indiegogo for more information. Orders are now closed for the July exhibition. Any of my work is available for purchase with all proceeds benefitting the charities featured on The Life You Can Save.