Summer Journal Entry 77 – Creative Writing Essay
Before that project and the program I wouldn’t call myself an “artist” as I had never really shown people what I had created and wasn’t sure if I was committed enough to so that. I had only been taking photography
classes for a year and although I had spent an extensive amount of time learning and creating beyond the class hours and curriculum I wasn’t sure if photography was something I wanted to continue for many years. In the second week of the program we were told to begin work on a single piece (or a series) that would take the remainder of the program to finish (3 weeks) and would be displayed in a large exhibition at the end. As I had never had an assignment with no guidelines I struggled for many days before I could find a concept and begin to execute it.
I chose to create a study of the scream because it is a facial expression rarely seen, has a wide range of causes, only a camera could capture its brief existence, and I thought having a large wall of people screaming at you would be slightly humorous. Working from almost 9am to 9pm every day for more than two weeks, the piece changed immensely from the beginning as my understanding of the art form grew. Originally I had planned just 5 or 6 images but the more I worked the more I came to realize that if the concept of a piece isn’t understood by the common onlooker, then you aren’t being successful. After a rather brutal critique with some of my peers and a teacher’s assistant, I knew that in order to portray the full range of expression in a scream I was going to need far more images to draw the viewer in. My first day of shooting I shyly asked my friends if they would scream for me in a designated location but found that within a few minutes I ran out of friends to photograph and many of them, because they knew me, weren’t willing to embarrass themselves.
Not until two days before “crunch week” did I muster the courage to go completely out of my comfort zone and photograph absolutely everyone I found. In order to achieve my goal of 36 images I needed that many fully committed people to pose for me. While one wouldn’t expect so, on average only one out of every three or four people can go in front of a camera and truly scream on command without laughing. For the next four days I carried my camera, a felt backdrop, and a light with me everywhere I went in order to have a mobile studio. In the dorms, dining hall (instead of eating) financial department, and everywhere else
I could think of asking complete strangers to scream for me. However, in the end I had photographed over one-hundred different people ranging from a dining hall cook to the admissions reviewers to a police officer to the head of the program. While learning how to approach people and convince them to do such an out of the ordinary task for me was difficult, but the most difficult work I did was in the last two days when I had to choose and print my final images. Most of my peers had at least a week to print their five to six image series; I had 2 days and 25 images. Out of all the years in school and experiences in my life, those two days were the most stressful. As a proud member of the ADD club, I knew that if I didn’t learn to organize myself in an obsessive manner I could never finish it. Everything I did was written down so as to avoid the “why am I holding this negative again?” moments found late at night. After two days of starvation, sleep deprivation, and rarely seeing sunlight, I finished.