The original series Welcome consisted of 16 photographs, a collection of writings, and a cake.
I am channeling a pose, more than a pose, an attitude: more than an attitude, a persona, or one vital aspect of one.
An infinitesimal moment of a performance is frozen in time. I collect myself again, refocus that energy, embody that particular persona I aim to track down and illuminate.
Again and again, until I think I’ve got it. Hope I’ve got it. I must have it by now. The rest of the work will come in the editing, the ever-crucial editing, where I will analyze the performance and select that one that best represents this piece of personality. Take this elusive part of me to blow up large and pin up where I can study it more objectively—out of my head and onto a wall. Out of my body and into an exterior container where I can better see it, not as in the distorting mirror, but like an observer would, like you would.
There are many ways to take a self-portrait. I choose to have one trusted person, a dear friend, act as my surrogate. This stand-in verifies the focus and releases the exposures so that I can be free to inhabit the performances. You might think that these are then private performances: me acting for the one person present, but you would be mistaken. I need someone who is intimate enough to me to allow me to achieve the fluid comfort level I need to relax and release anything that should come without worrying about what the other will think. This is tricky work. It is a kind of hunting as many of these personas would prefer to hide in the crowd and attempt to blend in, avoiding attention. The shutter releaser (these were shot on film with a Hasselblad 503E, the only camera that I ever cared about) must be someone whom I can let disappear, whom I can bark orders at in terse codes without worries of hurt feelings and reprisals. It is sometimes brutal work. I am not actually present to this person at all. I have to pretend that they are not even there; just me and the camera seeking and creating elusive prey. (I am a double agent. As in Roberto Calasso’s, The Celestial Hunter, I enact a sacred and primordial act, becoming a shaman transforming into the prey he seeks to capture.) This delicate work cannot be trusted to a thoughtless timer or interrupted by the need to step on a bulb or press a remote button.
These wouldn’t even be still images at all except for my desire to find the right one in order to study and scrutinize it at my leisure. To what aim? To answer: who am I? To understand it’s identity, their identities, and eventually, hopefully to absorb their powers and reincorporate them into a more cohesive I.