The Things She Carried
Undeveloped cyanotype emulsion on cotton gauze
144 x 44”
Detail of The Things She Carried
In photographing myself, I have come to think of my body as an environment. A place that I live in that is affected by water, chemistry, and sun. Like any environment, it has been impacted by its experiences and the people it has come in contact with.
Within my work I examine evidence of landmarks of trauma amongst the landscape of my body and navigate expressions of inner turmoil.
My studio practice investigates cameraless self-portraiture through alternative process photography as a means to expose the invisible weights of abuse, trauma, and anxiety that are internalized and carried within my body. By working with photographic cyanotype emulsion, I am able to create body blueprints that map out these internal dynamics and expose them to the light. The resulting cameraless self portraits are made up of latent impressions and gestures onto fabric from my cyanotype coated body. What is exposed by the light are the parts of oneself that are hidden, emotive and complicated.
LANDMARKS begins as a private performance that ends with the psychological construction of a public portrait. In the beginning stages of printing my body onto these lengths of fabric the emulsion is invisible. I cannot see the impact of my gestures, or actions. It is not until days or weeks have gone by that these imprints become fully realized from latency.
This project consists of simple materials, cotton gauze fabric that is slightly textured and transparent with light, yet durable. Fabric is something we hold close to our body therefore it felt like the perfect vessel to hold my blueprints. The cyanotype emulsion is one of the first photographic processes developed in the 1800’s. This contact printing process relies on sunlight for exposure and water for development. Historically it has been used by artists, botanists, and engineers; to create blueprints or scientific illustrations of flora. The slow exposure of the emulsion on fabric is evocative of the appearance of a bruise, in that it shifts colors as time goes on. What starts as a sickly yellow, transforms to a deep blue, but not without first shifting through a spectrum of green hues. Because this is a light and time sensitive process, there is a direct relationship between the hue of the cyanotype emulsion and the age of the mark. Unlike a bruise on the body however, these marks made by the contact between my skin and the fabric, will never fade but rather deepen over time. While traditionally a cyanotype print is developed after exposure, fixing the image and rendering it no longer mutable; I leave my works undeveloped as a reminder that what has happened to me, and to my environment, remains. I choose to leave my cyanotypes undeveloped because the body is mutable.
There is an element of risk involved with creating these works. Cyanotype emulsion is composed of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate. These chemicals are toxic when inhaled or ingested. I entered into this project knowing that by coating my body in this emulsion I am putting myself at risk, repeatedly exposing myself to the possibility of chemical burn. This potential discomfort felt superficial given the experiences my body has had with sexual assault, physical abuse, and self-harm. In the past I have used self mutilation as a way of manifesting emotional pain, therefore, because of this history, I found it fitting to put myself at risk to create a map of my own bodily environment. I connect this part of my process with that of environmental sabotage or excavation; harming the environment in order to learn from it and to expose the history of a place.