September 24, 2020

A Search for New Land

When shelter-in-place started, I thought I’d finally have more free time to process film at home rather than take it to a lab. Long days spent at the museum would no longer be a deterrent. Money would be saved.

Six months have now passed without knowing what my photos look like. Do I need to see the finished result to create compelling work? I finally processed my first rolls, one week before my thirtieth birthday. They show me a world I did not realize I was in — a world I never left.

I guess I’ve been trying to make photographs like I used to and like I haven’t been used to. You can’t approach people on the street the way you once could. Every moment is spent processing what’s happened and what’s to come.

I’m adapting to the rhythm of being confined to my home and neighborhood. The uncertainty of this arrangement and the developments over the last few months at SFMOMA have been front of mind. Can the museum safely reopen? Is it ready to reopen?

Like the walks I used to take downtown during my lunch hour, the walks I take around Stow Lake have become my bedrock, the constancy of the ritual pivotal to how I find peace and clarity in the present. I lose myself in thought. I stop to make a photo. I return to thinking.

I’ve decided to accept the new pace at which things develop and come undone. This newfound affirmation allows me to choose when to step into uncertainty, and to continue despite that uncertainty.

The outlandish visuals of how people look or act in public aren’t as interesting to me as they once were. Nowadays, I like to pick up on what “normal” felt like before COVID-19 — and when I recognize it, I try to preserve it. Immediately following that shutter release, I sense that maybe not much has actually changed, in terms of how people engage with and inhabit their environment. This is reflected in some of the images I’ve made since the pandemic began, and it’s even clearer when I compare them to the photos made before.

Things feel the same and it worries me. Things feel the same and it gives me hope. I’m never sure which way I’m leaning until I step outside for my walk.

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