The Story of….What Lies Beneath
Every image tells a story. But not every image tells a story intentionally. The series of posts on “The Story of…” will examine the concept behind a given image and the process of considering how to bring that concept to life.
When suffering through a bad year, I sought out the advice of an intuitive friend of mine. She stopped quite early into our conversation and noted that I presented a very different picture to the world than who I really was. Specifically, she said that many people around me would have no idea when I am suffering or needed help because that simply wasn’t the persona I projected.
She was probably right. But not just for me. I think this is true for most of us.
We hide because we’re ashamed, because we don’t want to burden anyone, or we believe no one would care. We hide because we think we’re supposed to do that. Because we think that the world only wants to see our happy face.
I am fascinated by this idea of our dual nature, how sometimes our identity is split not just into two factions, but more. We have sides like prisms, each reflecting on one another but separate, sometimes creating a confusing maze for ourselves and others to navigate. This idea drives much of my work, and I often seek to explore this by representing the same person in multiple ways through one single image.
I don’t believe anyone can be represented by a single image or a single pose. We simply are too complex.
The image of “What Lies Beneath” started as an initial concept of our dual nature – the person the world sees versus the one we hide from its view.
What Lies Beneath encapsulates our dual nature, the distinction between the face we show the world and the one we hide from it.
I started thinking about this concept very literally, in that there is one body of ours above ground, totally in view, and another below. So I took two sets of photographs, one of myself standing and one crouching. The pose above ground was back-facing, mainly because I try not to focus on faces in my work. I also made the conscious choice to have the subject’s shirt off. I did this because this is a vulnerable position and yet the subject is presenting this to the world openly, in confidence. Contrast this with the subject crouching, head buried, holding onto the shred of covering she can get. One is presenting herself to the world and the other is trying to hide from it.
To get the subject underground, I went out to my local neighborhood bridge where there were some patches of ground cut away and took photographs to fashion into a muddy cove.
I added a few details here to bring the concept home. First, I chose the color to be a green palate because green is a primary color of nature and I believe duality is part of our nature. It’s part of being human and we simply can’t escape from it.
Second, I wanted to make it clear that the two versions of the subjects were connected. I did this by connecting the fabric to both, even suggesting that the underground self is weighing the other down. It could also be interpreted that the higher self was literally keeping the lower self under wraps.
Our subjects are connected inextricably, even if they wished to separate.
Finally, I wanted to explore how our dual sides use elements – whether it be physical, emotional or other – to their advantage. This is why I repeated the three leaf pattern both below and above. The subject below uses these yellow leaves to protect herself. The subject above uses it almost like a torch to announce her presence. One is positioned close to the subject, the other apart. This is a message about how we might use what is in our lives or minds differently depending on our position, mood and state of being.
There are other elements, as far as darkness and style, that I employed to help convey the seriousness and depth of this message. I hope it resonates and if you have thoughts, please feel free to reach out.