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As a child I spent hours at a time lost in various worlds, both tangible and imaginary. I would paddle our canoe across the pond and enter fairyland, or build an addition to the cardboard village of barbie mansions which lived in the guest room. Other days, I was an actor rather than an architect, filling the role of doctor, or mother, or teacher. I easily accepted, and willfully ignored, the discrepancies between the worlds I constructed and reality; the fictions were real enough to believe in. Baking plastic muffins in a fake oven, while wearing high heels I couldn’t walk in and poorly applied lipstick smeared across my face. My imagination blurred the messiness of these imitations, painting the fabricated with a false glow of authenticity.
As I aged though, those imitations became more transparent, and their believability waned. I found myself repeating these motions which had once brought me so much joy, and yet I was too aware of their absurdity to engage with them as I had before. I began to feel as if some invisible line had been crossed, as though I had lost both a way of seeing the world, and a way of experiencing it. Unable to backpedal or stop my forward motion, I mourned my lost access to those worlds.
Photography has restored some of that access. I’ve realized that the act of making my photographs is the closest I’ve since gotten to building those worlds as a child. Blending the real and the imagined, these staged scenes allow me to manipulate my reality once again. The camera, blind to both context and time, allows for further control; it is told what to see but it is also told how to see. Training the lens upon these carefully crafted scenes, I coax the camera into seeing how I once saw. The camera can act as a bridge, and as an instrument of reconciliation. In my mind it is a ramshackle bridge, with missing planks of wood and broken railings; it can hold my weight but it is not yet crossable.
From behind the ground glass of the view camera the world is once again painted with a false glow that blurs context. However, as I step in front of the camera, as I enter the scenes of my own making, the context returns, and the camera documents the negotiation between competing emotions. There are a plethora of distractions, responsibilities and life events that, in competing for my attention, divert my focus from moments of wonder. The camera simplifies the world. The view camera allows me to zoom in, and concentrate on the minute, easily overlooked moments.
While I am overjoyed that the camera allows me access to these worlds I inhabited as a kid, I find myself to be a distant viewer. The worlds that were once boundless are now constricted by the tenets of adulthood. The borders of these worlds have become sharper, and harder to ignore. I can no longer exist fully inside of them, without recognizing those edges which place them inside of this world. This group of photographs chronicles my attempts to reclaim those lost appetites for worlds other than this one.
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Dunning, Hazel Rose, "LOST APPETITES" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 206.
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