from the archives : environmental portraits

this time, three years ago, I think, my friends and i took a road trip to palm springs. it was a long weekend…or maybe it was a week off, honestly i have no idea. i took my camera to work on a project for my darkroom photography i class.

it was an environmental portrait assignment - a concept i still don’t really understand - considering i’ve never been in a space that I even think can contain me, let alone encapsulate everything i am. so instead i took pictures of my friends in wide open spaces - places that i thought could hold everything they were to me - tastemakers, risk-takers, therapists, daughters, girlfriends, students, interns at media companies and record labels - the making of atmosphere.

we spent the weekend driving to bombay beach and drinking at some terrible mexican restaurant. i took my first tequila shot and i think cried over some flippant drunk comment that i can’t even remember. i shot all of it - through a lens of trying to make work that would please my professor (the most terrifying and inspiring artistic influence i had at the time - and in my mind the person who was in charge of not only my grade but the future of this weird, nebulous thing I had fallen in love with).

the second we pulled into the driveway of my boujie Lincoln Blvd. apartment I put on sweatpants and headed to the pitch black of the darkroom to develop my film. i could still tell you what song i was listening to, can still feel the lurch in my stomach as my fingers fumbled with the reel and dumped film fixer into the canister. the film came out and it said everything i wanted it to - everything i didn’t know how to explain in words … that seemed like the point of art anyways.

when i showed the images to my teacher he told me it looked like i had spent the week romping around the world with my friends. he critiqued that the environment said nothing about them, that the focus was fuzzy and that i had cut an arm off of my friend in the framing of one of the images.

i was crushed but had absolutely not a single word to explain why i thought that these image said much more than any picture in a college apartment or next to a book shelf. so i reshot the project and turned in some non-descript, technically bad, images of people doing things that were maybe kind of relevant to who i thought they were.

and now - three (maybe) years later I look at these pictures and see a portrait of something different - maybe an answer to the assignment in the first place.

i see our becoming. i see my hands shaking on a lens as i choose to become an artist - one who will decide that learning this craft will become one of the only things that means anything.

i see girls exploding into the atmosphere as they should - being big and loud, drunk and obnoxious, deciding to do what they want to do - ‘romping around the world’ and figuring out who they’re supposed to be.

i see an environmental portrait - of every single fight we had, and all the things that pulled us together and eventually pulled us apart.

i see my own environmental portrait… of the person i became.

and yeah - i get why that didn’t meet the project requirements.

xx- kennedy

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