Apr 11, 2008

Social Psyche

In my first post, I mentioned an article that talked about diagnosing the self-portrait, in which the artist is the one being diagnosed. If you have ever seen my work, you might have presumed a few things about me from the "darkness" of my images. I've read reviews or received emails commenting about how forboding and disturbing the scenes are. Not "seem to be", but "are". To me, being the keeper of the true stories behind my work, I just sit back and enjoy watching how the human psyche works, not my own. It is apparently so easy to look at my images and assume the worst. But why is that? Do those comments come from people who watch too much television, whether it be Fox News or the latest Rob Zombie flick? Or from people who live in the posh abodes of gated communities? I sometimes wonder what the homeless person or an inner city school kid's impression would be?

I'll take this moment in this blog platform to share with my small audience the true story behind one image in particular that draws a lot of assumptions of horror and gore.

first the image...
"and now for the rest of the story" - Paul Harvey (ABC news legend)

When I was 16 years old, living on the Northside of Pittsburgh, PA., my friends and I would spend our summer evenings taking swigs from a half gallon jug of Wild Irish Rose (the $6 vintage bottle of course or Hobo wine) down behind the H.J. Heinz factory. We usually did this under a highway overpass on the decommissioned (let me stress decommissioned or this could have been a horror story) railroad tracks that ran along the Allegheny River.

This is a reenactment of one of those times. I do believe that day in particular it was fairly hot and humid, and my belly was probably empty. That combined with a few pints of wine and I was done. Out for a short nap. It just so happened that my friend had a curfew (once the street lights came on, his ass was supposed to be home). Instead of taking the time to wake me, he just took off. Obviously fearing the repercussion of a lashing from his father for being late, more than the concern of leaving me where I was.

I have taken some liberty with this image from my memory of the event, because after all what's a good story without some exagerration. I am almost certain that I was probably wearing shoes, and perhaps a shirt as well. I also don't think (?) I ended up lying face first on the rocks...but I cannot be certain of that? The memory is dark and fuzzy, and so is the reenactment.

I love the fact that people like to look at my images and see what they want and that they are all open to intepretation. That is after all one of the reasons I love to shoot and share my stories. But I just can't help but to wonder what type (social class, ethnicity, nationality, etc...) of viewer see's one scenario and if someone completely different has a completely opposite reaction?


Steven said...

Great post Aaron. Insight from an artist is telling, but not always important or necessary. You're the artist. You have invoked some reaction in me. Was it intended? Dunno. And that's all that matters in my book -- that art remain a bit ambiguous and interpretive and emotional.

Anonymous said...

What Steven said goes for me also...I would add slightly "uncomfortable" to ambiguous...not over the top shock value...just a feeling that we are being presented with something in a way that is unfamiliar and therefore makes us want to understand and come to terms with what the artist is presenting. If I'm not at least a bit outside my comfort zone, I probably don't care enough to come up with my own crazy notion of what is happening.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, well done with the work; i think many of the compositions are brilliant. I have viewed the picture in question many times before and i must admit to first considering it a far more sinister composition. Maybe it's an inherent trait that causes us to "see" a given composition in a certain way? Or maybe it has more to do with our life experiences?
I know that i formed an "idea" of the narrative of this particular image within a couple of seconds. Unaware, i pieced together many of the picture's elements and formed a brief interpretation of it. We see around us everyday just how different people are from one another and this ultimately is what it all boils down to.
As well as being great compositions your images have bags of character due to their interactive nature. Many of them vociferously demand that the viewer finds what it is that the image means to them.

Well Done

Aaron said...

anonymous wrote: "Maybe it's an inherent trait that causes us to "see" a given composition in a certain way? Or maybe it has more to do with our life experiences?"

that is what piques my curiosity. I would love to know the immediate reactions of folks from different classes, races, and cultures on not just my work, but others as well? Maybe I'll start a online photography review site and hire completely random and extremely varied people to write reviews on all types of photography? It might be interesting or complete hogwash.


p.s. thanks for the kind words.