In the intro to The Image of Whiteness Daniel C. Blight writes: “I am obliged to state clearly and unequivocally that as a white man, I am implicated by and in my own arguments. This is my own Gordian knot, one that sees me faced with a necessary psychological crisis related to my subjectivity. Untying this knot – rather than violently cutting it – is the work I must do, and by extension, the work I want to suggest all white people do, especially those who consider themselves “not racist.” The closer I have come to understanding what my whiteness means in terms of my identity, the more I have realized that I must stay in this space of crisis.” I am just beginning to untie this knot personally and likewise feel implicated by my privilege as a white male. These books are the result of my own time in “this space of crisis.” They question how I have been conditioned to think and the lasting impact it has had on myself as well as others. As with most of my books these represent my thoughts from a period, I think through making. Each is a self-reflective attempt to grow.
Paint the Moon
Paint the Moon’s impetus is a story my parents told me when I was little and asked why the moon was broken. I had noticed the phases of the moon. I was told that my father (a former house painter) would get a very tall ladder and paint a little bit every night until it was “fixed.” This fan book, reminiscent of a paint sample book, illustrates the phases of the moon in paint scrapings on one side and family pictures of myself, my father, and my grandfather on the other. Through images, dates, and anecdotes, it creates a timeline showcasing how a narrative of work ethic and merit was passed down from generation to generation, and how privilege was glossed over as a contributing factor to our success. The book’s circular form complicates the common notion that social progress will inevitably happen as the linear timeline is shown as a never-ending cycle. Having been raised on ideals like merit I still struggle to not conflate my self-worth with productivity; even knowing that the myth of meritocracy contributes to our cultures insanely off-kilter work life balance, and worse the ability for society to write off people in need as lazy. Through this book I am questioning how these myths became so engrained in my identity and how I can navigate my future parenthood so that I do not perpetuate these ideals in my children.
To A Fellow Searcher...
In 2017 I came into possession of Minor White’s personal enlarger through my undergraduate photography professor, which accelerated a deeper research into White’s life. Using the search photographs by location function of Princeton’s online Minor White archive I began to visit various locations around New England (where I was living) and Rochester, NY (my hometown) where he had made images. Shooting with black and white film in a similar style I would go home to print my images on his enlarger. Eventually using different materials and forms to explore other aspects of his life such as ritual, meditation, the I Ching, and his relationships with other photographers. To a Fellow Searcher... opens to a picture of Minor White’s gravestone, which says “All the way to heaven is heaven, for he said I am the Way.” In many ways this quote sums up my research into the life of Minor White. I had similar existential questions, and like him attempted to answer them through a ritualistic approach to photography, only to discover the search was more interesting than the answers.
How to Draw Tornadoes
When I was in elementary school I was scolded for scribbling in my notebook. The teacher did not accept that I was drawing tornadoes and proceeded to teach me the “correct” way to draw them. Looking back, many aspects of my education, from art making to social norms, were taught in a canonical way. I’m realizing now how much it impacts the ways I think, and how difficult it is to break from this conditioning. A sewing machine scribbles tornadoes through the pages of this book violently disrupting images that symbolize my narrow-minded upbringing. As the dust settles, I imagine a world that is more inclusive and community minded; juxtaposing my experience learning multiplication with passages from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and exploring how trees prioritize the health of the forest over their individual success.