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How to Push Your Pain onto Someone Else

A Story About Me and My Photo Series

Jeanne Woodbury, Canon EOS Rebel T6

I've always been told I'm weird, ever since elementary school. I'd get bullied for it, but I didn't understand why. Now I do, and I've decided to embrace it. I guess it's a lot more acceptable in adulthood.

I've always been an artist in some form, whether it was in music, drawing, painting, or photography. I can't live without it—art is in my veins, so to speak. I live and breathe for it. Sure, I did pretty well in my English classes (not the language), but I never really loved doing anything other than art. I fed off of other people's positive reactions to my "talents." I guess you could say that's why I loved it. And it sort of morphed into wanting people to feel something because of my art. I've even fed off of people being creeped out because of something I was wearing or the things I made. It never hurt my feelings. It feels powerful, the fact that I can have such an effect on people. 

Portraiture is my favorite kind of photography (if one could even call it that, since what I do represents characters I create and ideas I want to share). People are more malleable than places—more expressive, less grounded and hard. You can even mold yourself into an idea or a character [insert Cindy Sherman reference here]. That's actually how I got into what I do now; I did a self portrait project for school and everyone loved it. There really is a benefit to showing your tits in art school.

As of right now, my MO is charcoal vomit, as seen in the image shown. It's not actually vomit, though—it's more like exaggerated drool. Ever since I had my heart broken in 2018 and made a series about it, I couldn't get enough of making my photos "gross and scary." As mentioned before, it makes people feel something (including myself). So I try my best to implement it into my photography moving forward.

Onto the point of this post: this is the current project I am working on. As I mentioned before, I love making people feel something, whether it's awe, disgust, something in between, or a mixture of the two. 

I read something somewhere about how art doesn't have to be morally correct. I'd have to agree with that—and I wouldn't say this series is about anything morally correct, either. This series in particular is about the adverse reaction or discomfort that comes with projecting one's own feelings onto others. Pain can be experienced no matter the surroundings, even when it's bright and sunny outside, so that's what I aim to capture—the normality of it, juxtaposed with the grotesque nature of suffering. I've been told it's scary, the visuals of this project, upon first glance. Friends, teachers, strangers, they all love it because they're all uncomfortable. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Art isn't supposed to be comfortable, it's supposed to get a reaction. It's not comfortable for the artist, so why should it be comfortable for anyone else? Art is pain, art is suffering, art is joy. Art is loss, art is grief, art is disgusting and ugly and vile and soft and loving all at once. You feel all of it, and that's why it's worth it. It's an outlet for one's demons and shortcomings that connects people and brings them together to collectively experience life outside of life. That's what's so personal, so social, so intimate about it. We let it invade us and change our insides, even if we absolutely hate it. 

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How to Push Your Pain onto Someone Else
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