A couple of years ago, I was traveling outside of the country for the first time. I was super excited to be exploring new places and found myself overwhelmed by all of the new image possibilities. Several weeks and several rolls of film later, I was shocked to find that rather than photos of new landscapes, I had a surplus of images of my friend Alex eating. The images were void of any specific place or time, they could have very easily been captured in New York, but for some reason I found these images of my friend mid-chew, to be much richer in detail and memory than any photo of a landmark.
I received a lot of feedback applauding the raw and intimate nature of these images. At first, I appreciated and agreed with these comments but I quickly became frustrated with the idea that an impromptu mid-chew image relayed any affinity for the person in the photograph. It really got me thinking about the category of portrait photography and when exactly a squinty-eyed gleam or a sideways smirk became synonymous with a glimpse at the subject’s true self. I started dwelling on the notion of selfhood and the human compulsion to constantly uplift the natural body and its processes. A lot of our daily routines, from sitting on a toilet to using silverware, have become completely normalized. I was reminded of a short story by Georges Bataille in which he argues that we have created rituals around the most basic of bodily functions and found ways to embellish their original purposes.
For this body of work, I photographed friends in their homes. By repurposing household objects and routines in my photographs, I am creating moments that are as perplexing as the normality of defecating in a porcelain seat. Rather than attempt to depict the people in my photographs accurately, my images are now serving as documentations of our time spent re-arranging their homes together. The images are as purposeful as they are playful, but most importantly they are collaborative.
I think this project will be ongoing indefinitely. I am so inspired by the interactions with close friends this work has allowed me to experience. I feel like as we grow older, the relationships we form can give way to these really dissociative moments where we both feel as though we’re constantly performing ourselves. It was nice to just fool around. We’d spend hours rearranging their apartments together just to get a single photo – like an ongoing puzzle.
Gabriella's work will be part of Parsons BFA Photography Thesis Exhibition at Aperture up through May 20th.
You can follow more of her work here.
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