Re-entering the world

I’ve spent the month of August either on the road or in Danville.  After strictly adhering to the quarantine from March-July, I had to leave Los Angeles for a while. Quarantine was actually becoming too comfortable. I love dreaming up fantasy worlds, reading Tarot, practicing yoga, writing, and solitude. Everything was great until I found it difficult to leave the house, even to walk to the mailbox at the end of my block. Full-on effects of isolation paired with reactive anger stemming from the ongoing crisis state of our nation is a destructive combo.

It was time to get out for a minute. Brian and I drove from LA to Danville. I’ll write a separate post about road tripping through a politically-divided country during a global pandemic.

We left Los Angeles to relax. But when my friend and fifth-grade classmate, Tae’tianna, reached out about donating a photo shoot to her motherhood support group, I figured I’d struck a good balance between work and play. She produced everything and I just had to show up and photograph strong women at Lincoln Park, a favorite spot of mine in town.

It’d been more than four months since I’d photographed humans. Portraiture photography is a muscle, and four months is the longest I’ve gone without exercising said muscle since I was 22 years old. But again, this shoot was some sort of middle ground; I didn’t have to find people to photograph, I didn’t have to approach strangers on the street, I didn’t feel compelled to have have a soul-deep conversation with each participant. This shoot was low commitment and low-key. Two words that I don’t usually identify with. 

This shoot and this 3-week trip have been a step in the direction of *balance* and I’m grateful. 2020 has been transformative.

Photographing home

I’ve been living in Historic Filipinotown neighborhood with Brian for more than two years, but I’ve never tried to photograph it. I have learned that trying to document every aspect of your life can be overwhelming (“how do I turn off my urge to photograph the world and actually relax?”), and it’s good to have some boundaries. But this global pandemic has me throwing all my old ways to the wind and and daily walks have become central to my life.

My dog and I have been venturing down streets we never bothered to explore, looking at lawn ornaments with a whole new perspective, appreciating the belated Christmas lights, and waving at people we see on a daily basis. We take our morning walk route in the evening, and our evening walk route in the morning. 

Filipinotown is full of life, of chutzpah, character, resistance. The energy here is fast, loud, chaotic, funny. Frankly, I’ve never really wanted to stop, slow down, and take photographs. 

I’m using a digital camera again, something that’s been collecting dust in my closet for nearly three years. It’s allowed me to play around a lot more and save a ton of money. I’ve been able to photograph all my walks for the past ten days, something I wouldn’t have done with film.

The restrictions of quarantine

Today is my 14th day quarantined in my small apartment near downtown Los Angeles. Like millions of other Americans, I’m without paid work. All the stability I’ve built in my life over the past 7-8 months has vanished, and the best way for me to cope with change and uncertainty is to make art.

If photography is a tool to think, then for the past 8 years or so, I’ve only been thinking about people, social structures, and social life. Isolation has been a real challenge for me because it’s forced me to stop looking out at the world and start working within. I guess these are sort of like self-portraits.

These are the images that keep popping into my head at 2 a.m. when I can’t sleep. 

I’m inspired by gelatin, water, flowers (fake and real), the color red, hardware in my toolbox, glitter, domestic spaces, spread, shiny beads, death, The Conformist, chihuahuas, horror films, candy, maiden-hair ferns, lockets, gray stones, the Eight of Wands tarot card, and yellow diamonds.

These are images I would have never (literally) dreamt of making, had I not been forced to slow down. To stop thinking about when my  next paycheck is coming in (it isn’t), to stop thinking about what lessons I have to prepare.  

To wonder, “Wait, am I living my life the way I want to, or am I just living the way I think I’m supposed to?”

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