trans·mu·ta·tion

Please note this entry is in process and is a living document. I will be returning to it over the next several days to evolve its meaning and add more contact sheets/video documentation.

Videos | Contact Sheets | Model Questions

Start from the simple premise that everything is about to change and you won’t be far off from what happened.

I ‘m not going to attribute my success or feelings of positivity to my diagnosis of HIV. When people say “HIV is a gift” I want to slap them and puke. HIV is not a “gift”. It can be a catalyst, a wake-up call, or even the fruition of a belief system, but it is not a “gift”. It’s also not a diagnosis of death like it was when I was 18. Getting past the initial PTSD was difficult, but I knew I did not want to spend the rest of my life in that well of pain. HIV is, however, something that one has to survive and in order to do that, I had to allow the toxic medicine to transmutate my body and ultimately my mind.

Me. Deep in the pain.
Looking outwards for help.

Like nuclear fusion transforming an object, I was being pumped full of chemicals to change HIV to a non-reactive form. Undetectable. The human form translated at a cellular level. My body fat migrates. My body weakened. My mental capacity was absorbed by the energy required to fight HIV. I was powerless, or so I thought.

The truth for me was I would need to allow the process to occur. Regardless of what I wanted the universe and the medicines were conspiring and I needed to practice acceptance. I was sick, but I didn’t need to dive into the deep end anymore. I had suffered enough and now it was time to make a choice.

My choice is to live and create. I hadn’t given up totally. I was using my art to find my way. The process of activating my creativity had been the only salvation. I was literally clinging to my art, my family, and friends like a life raft. But I needed to pull myself back up. I changed my mind because I didn’t want to fight anymore. My capacity to suffer is endless, but my capacity to create is not. Only one could survive.

This series is about outside forces that create the opportunity for change, what we do to connect the mental and physical, and the person who emerges. If we are powerless how do we find our potential? I asked my models to explore the mental and physical boundaries of the surface I perched them on. Close your eyes. Imagine the camera above you has the power to change your physical being and your only weapon is your mind. You can project an image of who you are going to be and the camera will capture the struggle. We are left with these images to document their transformations. What does the model feel when they see the evidence? What do we believe their struggle to be? Can we see ourselves in their pain, joy, tension, release, and humanity?

From my session with Julio.

The catalyst to transform here is the opportunity to share this experience between artist and subject. It’s emerging from a cocoon. It’s a seed breaking wide open and rooting in reality. I am all these things. I am my pain, suffering, anger, and disappointment. I am also my happiness, my creativity, my love, my laughter, my smile, my desire, and my connection to my physical self.

The next step is to add me into the mix. Cross that threshold of fear I asked my models to cross. Photography myself nude in transmutation. Deal with the changing appearance of my body due to the HIV medicines. Demonstrate my willingness to allow that physical change to be an opportunity for mental change.

What I was not planning on was the level of intimacy I’d be engaged in with my camera and my models. After hearing from the models about what the experience was like for them, I decided to send some questions back to them in hopes of including their point of view in the project.

Transmutation is the experience of being biologically changed by outside forces.

  • Thinking about how you felt during the modeling session, what were the outside forces affecting how you responded to the camera?
  • What were you feeling during the modeling session?
  • After you left the modeling session what were you feeling? Did new feelings come up as a result of the session?
  • How did you feel once you saw the sketch of the photos I sent you?
  • Did seeing your images in social media affect you in any way?

En Espanol

Hola – Estoy atando algunos cabos sueltos sobre el proyecto Transmutación para descubrir cómo voy a usar todo esto de una manera más concreta. ¿Puedes hacerme un favor y responder a estas preguntas? Por favor, no se apresure y reflexione sobre toda la experiencia de modelar en este contexto. ………La transmutación es la experiencia de ser cambiado biológicamente por fuerzas externas. Por ejemplo, para mí, el contexto era el VIH, los medicamentos, los efectos secundarios físicos y emocionales, y cómo estoy aceptando todos los cambios.
Preguntas:

  • Pensando en cómo te sentiste durante la sesión de modelado, ¿cuáles fueron las fuerzas externas que afectaron cómo respondiste a la cámara?
  • ¿Qué sentiste durante la sesión de modelaje?
  • Después de que saliste de la sesión de modelaje, ¿qué sentiste? ¿Surgieron nuevos sentimientos como resultado de la sesión?
  • ¿Cómo te sentiste cuando viste el boceto de las fotos que te envié?
  • ¿Ver tus imágenes en los medios sociales te afectó de alguna manera?

Si es posible, me gustaría recibir sus respuestas a finales de la próxima semana en mi dirección de correo electrónico o en el mensajero de facebook para que sea más fácil de transponer en otros formatos ( XXXX@gmail.com).

Turn that camera on myself and kaboom, the awareness of transmutation increases significantly. Although the camera was on a tripod, relied on a remote, a stack of books to balance it over the balcony, and an immense amount of patience, it was technically easier than I had thought it would be. The hard part would be releasing the judgment of my body that triggered laughing, crying, and eventually, acceptance.

  • Thinking about how you felt during the modeling session, what were the outside forces affecting how you responded to the camera? 
  • I could not release the judgment I was feeling about my own body. After losing so much weight over 3 months due to the medicines I thought I would feel freer. The reality was all the feelings of self-loathing were waiting for me. I was dialoguing with myself during the photos about the things I could not change about my body. I was telling myself how important it was for me to be able to complete the circle of the project and how I needed to honor the experience of my models by having a parallel experience. There were two cameras; the camera above my head and the camera live broadcasting on Instagram. It seems a little incongruent to be scared of my body and to be live broadcasting, but other models had done it and I wanted to walk in their footsteps. So the forces of my mind, the judgments of the audience, and the indisputable reality of the camera were all forces working on changing my physical being. I visualized those forces as energy that moved my body. I think that came out in the final photos. 
  • What were you feeling during the modeling session? Scared you’d see my body as I see my body. I was recalling the photo I took (above) a few months ago when I was at my worst. Suicidal. I was comparing how I had been feeling recently and the distance between the two. At first, I cried. Then I laughed because I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to live when I took the previous photo and so much had transpired. A full range of emotions flowed through me during the session. It was a very emotional experience.
  • After you left the modeling session what were you feeling? Did new feelings come up as a result of the session? Well, I left to my upper loft to look at the photos and create the sketch below. At first, I felt quite critical of the folds in my stomach and the flaws I felt the photos revealed. I became frustrated because I thought I should look better after losing this weight. I heard that voice in my head criticizing every aspect of the photos, but I decided to allow all this to flow through me and try to create beauty from the judgments. That was a new thing for me to mold myself around the negative idea in a way that would smother it out of existence. I felt freer. 
  • How did you feel once you saw the sketch of the photos I sent you? I was relieved that the editing allowed me to see myself as worthy of the photo. Sounds horrible to speak of myself this way, but again the transmutation process had become the American Express without limits I needed to make changes in the way I see myself. When I see the sketch I can’t not compare them to the beauty I saw in my models, the parallels, and therefore the beauty of myself. It released another torrent of tears, but tears of joy and relief. 
  • Did seeing your images in social media affect you in any way? At typing this I have only released this on facebook in my personal profile. Partially due to the late hour and wanting to share it in a time zone that people I want to share it with specifically will see it. The other part is the fear of judgment I might get from my audience. Possible not probable attention as my therapist and I keep discussing. My mind is all about ‘possible’ and I am working on identifying ‘probable’ to reduce the effects the nearly constant negative dialogue in my head. So, now I stand perched over the send button to post my image on Instagram. I am still nervous, but at the same time, I feel connected to letting this go. 
Please note this is a sketch and those of you who feel necessary to send me emails or post about Photoshop techniques are really missing the point. 🙂

Videos

From my session with Miguel.
My session with Jaime (assisted by Marco)
My session with Marco (assisted by Jaime)

Contact Sheets

Please note this entry is in process and is a living document. I will be returning to it over the next several days to evolve it’s meaning.

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