After yesterday's post and a few recent conversations, I decided to elaborate further on this subject. I notice patterns. Serendipity? More than mere coincidence, though it is fair to note that once you begin looking for something, you find it everywhere. In letting go of one identity, or, perhaps, the need for a clearly defined and quantified self, I have found the conversation, the search for definition coming up in many conversation throughout the last year.
We all wear masks - the question is whether you will allow me to see behind yours. Or, more importantly, whether you know you wear one in the first place. I forgot, for awhile. For years it fit so tightly, so smoothly, that it became a mark of honor. Ingrained. I counted the mask as an accomplishment - look how quickly and quietly I can become...anyone. When I looked in the mirror I saw skin, but on camera the mask was inescapable. Staring back at myself, I knew all I had given up. All I had become. Through dedication and loyalty, hope and expectation. Through fear and love. Once I finally saw her, I was more terrified than any hero faced with the snake-crowned Medusa. I was already stone. It took 4000 miles, two months of sunlight, humor, patience, and whole lot of pop music to finally crack the marble mask.
The the question of identity - a quest for understanding and acceptance of ourselves at the best moments, and by society when we feel less sure and strong. We all take up armor and accessories. The clothing we wear to hide or reveal, the books we read, the hair, shoes, house, job, car (or conscious lack thereof), the food, even the company we keep. Is our very outlook an accessory? Do we feel what we think we should? If told we are happy, would we be convinced? When told we are depressed, we rarely argue.
I think there is a time in our lives - and it is different for everyone - when we have to become fearless. We are still afraid of things (I will scream and run away when I see a snake - every time), but we develop an internal knowing that looks back at us when we stand in front of the mirror, that counteracts the silent voices of doubt and insecurity. It says, “You’ve got this.” It says, “Be brave. Be bold.” It says, “You are worthy. You are loved.”
I fall a little in love with everyone I photograph because we share the act of seeing and being seen, revealing aspects of both artist and subject, and finally of the viewer.
Pause. Look. What do you see?