I was about three when a woman first encouraged my art habit.
My dad was resting his feet on a coffee table while watching television, and I was making childish scribbles on a notepad. I still have a faint recollection of deciding to draw a picture of my dad’s feet. Perhaps this is a false memory, but it feels accurate. If memory proves correct, I did this without much consideration. It was just something I felt like doing. At some point – probably at the “look at what I’ve done – phase, my parents took note of my youthful art, and noticed what they considered to be a rendering of my dad’s feet at a level well beyond my age. Whether or not they were correct (judge for yourself at right), I took note of the uproar, and the placement of the image in my dad’s prized Bible. (This fact would lead to its near-perfect preservation all these years later.)
After the success of my first piece of “art,” I remember my grandmother especially encouraging me to draw more. I remember this throughout my childhood. I rarely stopped drawing. I would fill boxes with images of space shuttles, whatever toy/cartoon combination I was most into at the moment and much more. Until her death when I was ten, my grandmother continued ceaselessly to cheer me on.
My father died exactly half a year after my drawing, and my mom joined my grandmother in encouraging my artistic pursuits. Mom had in particular dabbled in art through her life, and a few small paintings of hers impress me even to this day. She also took to making little renderings of comic strip panels to include in notes she would package in my lunches once I began school. This little glimmer of light created a fascination with the image, and its communicative capabilities. As I got older, I became involved in making these notes for my younger brother. I kept trying to one-up myself and create a fascinating storyline, one small frame at a time.
These images might have been silly and were probably horribly drawn in comparison to my mom’s, but the creative storm they brewed deeply influenced me.
Being raised by two women, I had no concept of things like women being inferior in any way. Perhaps men could often lift more weight or hit harder, but the notion a woman does not have the mental capacity to accomplish anything a man would did not exist in my upbringing. My lack of social life probably contributed greatly to this, as I was rarely around boys that were not my brothers. That’s not to say I was oblivious to the many awful ways women can be treated by society, especially by men. I was just mostly insulated from it.
As years of drawing finally turned into an interest in photography, and then finally an interest in portrait photography, I encountered the problems of being a male making photographs of women. While I feel like this is another entry entirely – and truly, it is the focus of my photography this summer – I believe I’m at a particularly unusual and interesting place. I’ve joked often that I’m basically a woman, meaning that I don’t ascribe to many concepts of “manliness,“ nor do I often find many ways to relate to men beyond a mild interest in certain sports. I feel supremely more comfortable around women. I’m sure this has something to do with my heterosexuality, but I strongly believe it has more to do with the fact that I was raised by women and influenced by women at every turn in my life.
This class arrives at a perfect time in my study of this topic, and in my consideration of this daunting issue looming over my work and career as a photographer. I look forward to learning more, and I especially look forward to asking and hopefully finding answers through the lens.