ENVISIONING SELF AS OTHER: Process Post No.3

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Four women, in a line, hold up figure-length mirrors in the same direction. The mirrors reflect the outdoor space and other women who are seated watching.
Joan Jonas’ Mirror Piece I, performed at Bard College, New York in 1969.

In this third week of class, we are discussing “the online self”. This theme is very pertinent to me, because my whole reason for creating this website has come from years of agonizing over how best to orient and then digitally present my admittedly complicated relationship to photographic creation. Perhaps this is in part because I have always understood what Matthew Stadler points out; that there is value and legitimacy to “self-publishing”, even if it is mistakenly seen as operating on the margins. I do know that there is power and possibility in what I publish, despite modest blogs like my own being consistently undervalued.

I have not yet discussed my vision for this photography-based website, nor how that rationale has played out thus far. For this week, I would like to discuss just that. Though I am a Visual Art student by training, my relationship to photography is quite fraught because it is pulled in two directions at once.

On the one hand, I have had a thorough education in the field of photographic fine art. In fact, many people do not realize that Vancouver––made up of unceeded Coast Salish territories in the Pacific Northwest––has been a global leader in the acceptance of art as photography. (I will write more about that at another time). As a result, through my schooling, I have developed a nuanced appreciation for theory surrounding photo-based contemporary art; to the point where it is the main material in my school work. These creations have been successful enough in that I have had several photographs exhibited in galleries over the years despite only being a student. In sum, I have a substantial body of work which is in dialogue with the contemporary art world, but these images take quite a long to create.

With that said, I have always had a passion for photography outside of contemporary arts discourse; “photoshoots”, to be specific. Any time I could get my hands on some makeup, some clothes, and a camera, I have been experimenting with my friends ever since I was a child. Over the years, I have honed my skills to the point where I am eager to actually share these photographs with the world. Unfortunately, as I have learned more theoretical background from the fine art world, I have become too concerned with the more “shallow” nature of these photographs. For years now, I shoot and edit hundreds of these more “commercial” images, which I have never shown. And though Debbie Chachra’s words reassured me that I am still engaging with the world even if I am not visibly “making”, I have realized that I do want to honour what I have made by giving it a place to shine online!

In short, even though both perspectives in me are expressing themselves through photography, the goals are too different to be considered as one unified vision.

More to the point, the creation of this website has marked an important turning point for me: I have decided that I must distinguish my artistic photographic practice (at least somewhat) from my commercial photography business. Rather than constricting me to two tight boundaries, however, the hope is that this will give myself some more freedom; to create without fretting so much about either the theoretical implications of every portrait or the cheapening of my body of work should I decide to do a photoshoot. With those aspirations in mind, this website was born to give me somewhere to publish my more commercial imagery. It’s the stuff I do for fun, but also the work that could potentially turn into a small side business for me.

So, how has this all translated more practically into the set-up of my website? While I could continue negotiating which images belong here in the commercial portfolio, I have decided to simply begin. 

THE TWO MAJOR ACTIONS I TOOK THIS WEEK:

This past week, I began building the portfolio section of my website. Organized under “Projects”, I have spent several hours creating static pages for different subject matter using Elementor. The three sections are People, Animals, and Experimental––I wrote about the creation of “Animals” in my Process Post last week. Though all three are still under construction, I already feel much better now that they are simply “out there”. These appear on my home page to signal that I am know what I am talking about, and that a big part of the future of this website will be to showcase similar images of mine.

Conversely, this website has also been created as a place where I can voice my opinion about a variety of visual-art related topics, but more strictly linked in some way to being a commercially-oriented photographer in the digital era. So though I have photographic musings, there will always be an array of written thoughts to ground this site; hence the name, Messy Musings.

In an attempt to make this broad variety of thoughts a bit less confusing, however, I realized I would need to create more substantial than a quick and snippy about page. In addition to that more standard introduction, I created an “Orientation” page that is accessible at the very top of my website. This is the second major decision I made this week. Now, I am able to give viewers a much better sense of my positioning and the organization of my posts.

The button now reads “DISCOVER” instead of “ABOUT” (left). The top section of the page explains this online space’s belief that we are “humans becoming” (right).

The first two sections of this Orientation page explain my perspectives towards this website. For posterity and so as not to repeat myself, this is what the middle section currently reads:

” […] here, you will find a variety of posts ranging from informative to personal, opinion to ideation. On the whole, this configuration is not unlike a notebook. As a result, although you can expect to see my portfolio imagery, there will also be plenty of asides in the forms of writing, linking, and reviewing; none of which should be taken too seriously. Each post is only a stepping stone towards the next idea.

I put forth this assortment of content because I believe, as a creator, that I have a responsibility to reach outwards with just as much energy as I pull towards exploring my own impulses. In an era of uniformed branding and declarative persuasion, I’ve always hesitated to put my own thoughts into the digital ether since my interests tend to develop in overlapping clusters.” 

At the bottom of the page, I explain my organizational system for each of my posts going forward. This will help both me and my viewers, and each section is a clickable button. They are divided into: Creative, for experimental or image-based posts; Theoretical, for posts relating to broader historical and ethical contemplations; and Practical, for posts which offer up applicable information. This is what this last section looks like:


I found my footing this week. Overall, I am finding it rewarding to create these posts and I have been surprised at how eager my fingers have been every time I sit down to create. On to next week!

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