I’ve become an avid listener of Gem Fletcher’s podcast The Messy Truth whilst doing my sanctioned lockdown walks. And this is the second post that takes inspiration from one of the episodes – especially with regard to where my ‘practitioners psyche’ is currently at. In this case, the episode is with Diana Markosian. Markosian is an American/Russian artist of Armenian descent, working as a documentary photographer, writer, and filmmaker.
What I responded to in their discussion is Gem Fletcher’s statement on how Markosian digs deep into her vulnerability and truth as a photographer as fuel for her projects. Markosian is clear that this is because she is all about the work and not about the rewards and reputation her work has brought. For me, this has led me to think about vulnerability and how it is an important foundation to invest in now that my Master’s Degree has, successfully, come to a close.
Vulnerability is something we tend to steer clear of admitting to. After all, in our social-media dictated lifestyles, we are meant to have it ‘sorted’ and to be happy and successful. Any inference of pain and people run a mile. And yet that is a part of the very heart of being human – and my photography is all about the exploration of being human, positive and negative.
It’s definitely noticeable that, at this juncture, with the Master’s academic and creative framework complete, I am succumbing to disorientation and a slowing momentum. Inevitable I guess after such an intense two years (especially the last eight weeks or so of the Final Major Project). That’s exacerbated by the current pandemic lockdown we in the UK are experiencing once again. The motivation for creating work returns to my own deadlines, needs, interests etc. That’s not divorced from what I’ve just accomplished and created, but the accountability of the master’s framework is no longer present. There’s no immediate pressing outlet for the work.
So I need to find further motivation and accountability. The solution to the first is to dig into my vulnerability as a practitioner, and I think the solution to the latter is to seek out mentorship.
What do these vulnerabilities as a practitioner look like right now:
In terms of recent project work and any continuation of the MANNA project, I think I need to dive into the direct resonances of my mixed heritage again. There’s a level of vulnerability in terms of my family connectivity, the recent loss of family members and my emotional responses, that I think I can go deeper with. For example, what does it mean to be half-Italian? How has that born itself out in my life? What sensations and experiences has that led me to? The lack of a sense of belonging that was the motivator for my MA project in the first place – I’ve explored that through others, but maybe now is the time to dig into that in myself even more – especially as I can’t meet other people at present.
In terms of the vulnerabilities that are part of my current mindset:
- I have to stop concerning myself with what others think and focus on the work (as Markosian says) and be honest about how my emotions respond to my themes and subjects. That’s not always easy as we have preconceptions of ourselves. How good or bad we are at something. How appreciated or respected we are, or not. which leads me to the next point:
- Facing and accepting rejection. This is one of the toughest aspects of the journey as my work is pretty much rejected everywhere and has been for years. In fact the MA is really the first true success I have had in terms of the acceptance, support, and indeed celebration of my personal work and output. Elsewhere it is regularly ignored. That takes a toll on self-belief. But that swing between despair and determination to carry on and keep making is the underlying determinant of my creative journey.
- Not racing to achieve quantity of image output.
- Knowing that I need to be held accountable for my practice and to it.
- Accepting that it is not easy to work in isolation at the best of times.
So, I equate vulnerability with a level of honesty that includes accepting the person and photographer that I am. So, over the next few weeks, I’m investing on how these vulnerabilities in my mindset and practice can be motivators and guides. I am a practice-led ‘researcher’, my answers come in the making but need a ‘why’, even an uncertain one, to forge a practical path.
The Messy Truth (2020). Diana Markosian – On Transformation, 26 November [Podcast]. Available at: https://play.acast.com/s/themessytruth/dianamarkosian-ontransformation (Accessed: 8th January 2021).