The idea for the process behind That Game We Used To Play came in a moment of inspiration while reviewing some of the works from my first college photography class. The photograms I came across were reminiscent of colorless solar flares, light bouncing off of India ink that I’d swirled across the plate. I became aware and fascinated with the tonal gradations that occurred with changes in the thickness of ink. I wondered if a similar effect would happen with printer’s ink.
Though it seemed logical that such an effect would occur with printer’s ink, I was admittedly astonished when the eyes of Elvis--the very first image I attempted to make--gazed up at me from the tray of developer. The plate did not look like much; a splash of color here or there, an emptiness where the darkest portions of the image would be. It did not amount to an awe-inspiring monoprint, yet when that image was reversed and thrown in monochromism, a person emerged.
I devoted the remainder of my school year to discovering the intricacies of the process, choosing to continue my work with iconic images of musicians. I learned about the effect of color and transparency, the movement of a brush, and the subtleties of line and shadow; despite my underdeveloped drawing skills, I discovered that with proper attention and devotion I could create an image that I was not only proud of, but inspired by.
More importantly, I learned something about myself. My initial decision to depict Elvis came from the desire to ensure recognition. As I continued making images of musicians, I began to wonder what it meant, how I could relate to these “untouchable” people. I began to question, when I thought of my next image: why did certain musicians come to mind and others did not?
I came to realize that every decision I made, every musician I chose to create, came from personal yet subliminal connection. Memories of a guessing game my father and I used to play in the car came flooding back. From my earliest memories I had been trained to recognize certain genres and artists. As I found independence, my own musical tastes formed. Though I would like to claim originality in my musical decisions, it would be ignorant to do so. Though the time for that game had faded away, it had been replaced with new influences.
Past the purely anecdotal quality of my decisions of which musicians to print, I am interested in the base meaning. Each image says something about me and, in a way, the complete collection of That Game We Used To Play is an overview of my personality. When I see each image, I am reminded of something in my past, a remnant of how I was raised and what I was introduced to while my being was malleable.
What interests me most is what other people see when they look into Elvis’ eyes or why they can’t recognize Kurt Cobain. I urge people to look past fingerprints or social security numbers and consider who they have to thank for making them who they are. My work is meant to question what a person gains from their surroundings and what is unconsciously carried into the future. Through my own discoveries, I wish to reveal a panoramic and enveloping picture of personality; the culmination of these images, no matter how unoriginal or mainstream, creates a unique person that changes with every viewer.
Inklings Published December 07, 2008