One of the things that is both exciting and challenging about being an artist is the reality of starting over with each new project. Of course, I love it because I get to follow my curiosity about a new subject and see where it takes me. I enjoy the sense that when I’m exploring a new idea and trying out different things artistically, it’s as if I’m solving a mystery (albeit a mystery without any hard and fast answers, usually just more questions, but that’s fine). On the other hand, for each new project, there’s a shift, and sometimes I feel as if I’m starting over again with my art practice, figuring it all out again each time.
It definitely feels that way with Grief Landscapes, because although the project is building on a lot of ideas and work I’ve done before, the form of it feels really new for me. For the first time, I’ve decided to put the work out there in the world at an early stage in its development. In order to do that, and because of the necessity of recruiting people for the project, I’ve realized that it’s time for me to get over my fear of exposing myself online and in social media, and of reaching out and letting people know what’s going on with the work and my process.
It’s funny, because I’ve been working on the Internet in some form literally since the web began, in 1996. My first job after college was as a copywriter at Prodigy, an internet service provider that actually predated AOL (anyone remember that connecting modem sound?). I spent my days surfing the early web and writing pithy headlines and puns for home pages of links. Then I worked at NBC, in a tiny division called Interactive Television, in which we were developing content that attempted to combine the internet and television (to pretty boring effect, I must say). After I became a photographer, I launched SingleShots in 2003, shooting online dating portraits for hundreds of people.
Since I’ve been working online practically since the beginning, you might imagine that I would be totally comfortable sharing what I’m doing here. And it’s not that I haven’t made any attempts—I kept a blog about Greetings From Motherland for a while, and made occasional updates to the Facebook page I kept about the project. But I had trouble getting past the icky self-promotional feeling, or how vulnerable it made me feel to write things and put them out there.
So what’s changed? I’ve started to realize that when I share my work, or the process behind my work, I’m letting people in and bringing people closer to it. It goes beyond the work itself — the work becomes the catalyst for the relationships that are developed and the conversations that are sparked. I’ve known this intrinsically when I’m face to face with people; it happened quite naturally with all of the Greetings From Motherland workshops I ran.
It feels time to expand that circle with this new project, and start treating the online space as I would a workshop I’m leading. I have to trust that those who are interested in what I’m doing will want to hear more, even when I’m not sure who is reading and listening. But my real wish is that with time I will be able to develop a community here and elsewhere online, and we will start to be able to have those conversations that I’m hoping to have. Grief is not an easy thing to talk about, for example— I’ve already noticed that when I tell some people what I’m working on, they look away, and clearly want to change the subject. I’m hoping that here that will be different.
I plan on updating this blog once a week (I’m hoping that by saying that out loud I will stick to it), I’m regularly updating my Facebook page now, and I’m posting images on Instagram and Pinterest. I'm starting to build my email list from scratch so people can get direct updates (it had been so long since I used it, MailChimp wouldn't let me send anything out. Speaking of which, feel free to subscribe).
It’s like I’m putting my toes in the water, and finding out that it’s really not that cold. Anyone who knows me knows I actually hate getting in the water—I’m like an old lady who splashes herself and takes a half an hour to get in. And then does the doggy paddle once she’s in. But here I am, proudly doing the doggy paddle. It feels like I’m finally in the pool.