The Hauntingly Unfinished
28 Jun 2008
The mind is a wonderful thing.
I wish I could turn mine off.
At night when I lie awake in bed, my mind refuses to settle in under the covers and rest. It refuses to sleep, preferring to taunt me with the incomplete. The worst nights are the ones when my mind dwells on unmade images. Undocumented moments. Pieces of life that are over and done and already forgotten. They haunt me.
Maybe it's a project that I started with a magnificent image or two, and a premise that really spoke to me. So many projects that appeal to me on a deep level, that speak to a certain aspect of my soul. There's an intensely personal out-of-focus image designed to show the world through the eyes of someone who is nearly blind (myself). There are a few images of "stuff" left behind by people; tiny transient pieces of proof that their possessors existed. A fairly significant body of work created within a mile of my home which came to an abrupt halt for really no reason. Beauty in the mundane.
There are images of those around me whom I love and want to document right now, at this stage in their lives. And I want to document myself, as I am on the inside rather than snapshots of the outer me. I am too guarded an individual to express myself so intimately except in music.
Sleeping children who are still blissfully ignorant of the kinds of thoughts that keep me awake at night.
Looking at my list of unfinished projects makes me realize something unexpected: I am desperately driven to document things that make me emotional. I only want my view on the world to be seen and understood. I am not looking for attention; I'm looking for kindred spirits.
I want to believe that I will finish these projects. I really want to. It's the perpetual false feeling of guilt that drives me. The guilt is driven by my need to accomplish. The need to accomplish is driven by a need to validate myself, which is in turn driven by a need to be understood.
I have to wonder if this perpetual guilt is what drives my portrait work? My need to document the soul and not just the face. Maybe my discontent is the greatest strength of my portrait work. I only want people to be honest and understood as I have never been.
While I prize this continual sense of incompletion which drives me to press forward, I wish for the day when I can say, "This project is finished. Now onto the next."
In the meantime, I will have to content myself with the challenge of documenting the deepest side of everyone I photograph. That seems a fair trade.
I still can't sleep.