These photographs address internal insecurities and anxieties of my own and those I am discovering in my friends. Coming to college from across the country, it’s easy to forget that the friends I have made here have very little understanding of where I came from, nor do I of their histories. This begins to make me feel a little alienated, but also freed. The emotion that I am addressing with these photos is two parts anxiety, one part exhilaration. The primary subjects of this project are the two best friends that I have made since I left the West. I’m just beginning to realize the full extent of the angst that is concealed within the minds of so many of the people around me, and also within myself. In addition, we three have vastly different ways of relieving our anxiety, or not doing so and letting it accumulate. Through visual metaphor and sensitively-seen portraits, I hope to express the unique set of emotions that characterize this time in our lives.
-Maya Sommer, 2012
I was initially drawn to photography for how it allowed me to focus my attention in creative and sometimes fantastical ways, yet remain entirely based in reality. I am comforted by the straightforwardness of the physical. In making the photographs I considered the correlation between the corporeal and the emotional, a fundamental association in romance and sexuality. I wondered whether the physical could also be illustrative, in a similarly inherent way, of the emotional life of an individual. Using myself as the primary subject, I set out to explore this and related questions through the medium that is indisputably the most honest when it comes to physical reality.
Photographing myself and allegories of myself has allowed me to take a step back, even if it’s only as far as the cable release will stretch. I’ve thought about selfhood and felt at once alienated and comforted at the fact of the subjectivity of my experience.
It feels strange to discuss these images out of the context of the process of their creation. This being by far the most challenging conceptual project I have undertaken, I hesitate to claim that the images have served to fully express the depth of introspection that begot them. Moreso they have become a compendium of artifacts, evidence of intimate examinations the details of which I shall not yet seek to convey in words. A majority of the images were taken in isolation, giving me valuable freedom, but also limiting me logistically. Both of these factors helped determine the nature of the resulting pictures.
Deliberately avoiding conceptualizing in advance, I let my mind and eye wander in an attempt to capture something of my raw instinct in photographing. The resulting images were stripped-down in a way that was at first disconcerting to me because I feared they did not convey the complexity of the thinking that inspired them. I have since concluded that my inclination towards simplicity referenced a desire to employ the medium to synthesize complex (and often incomplete) thoughts.
-Maya Sommer, 2013