Monday, October 26, 2009
I started a photo project last spring documenting the Mazu Pilgrimage in Taiwan, which I’m hoping to finish on my next trip there. Mazu is a Taoist deity, goddess of the sea, a sort of patron saint of Taiwan. In honor of her birthday, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk hundreds of miles over a course of eight days visiting temples that have been erected in Mazu’s honor. Sometimes the pilgrimage will stop at a temple for only a few minutes, but if it’s a temple that is especially sacred to the Taoist faith, it will stop for the night. When this happens, the town becomes one big street party-dancing dragons, fireworks exploding in all directions, mysticism carried out in all its religious pomp.
Some followers of Taoism show their devotion to Mazu by performing the act of self-mutilation. Preparing for it in advance with fasting, meditation, and sometimes a bit of rice wine, the devotees impale rods through their flesh claiming that they feel no pain because the spirit of Mazu is protecting them. Such passionate devotees are few and far between, most people preferring to show their devotion by saying prayers and burning incense instead.
These photos were taken just outside of Chiayi in the south of Taiwan. I was able to make enough connections on this trip so that when I go back to Taiwan, I will be able to meet with some of the movers and shakers of this pilgrimage, which will allow me to do some more intimate portraits of the people and of the pilgrimage itself.
I recently scored access to some pretty good scanning equipment so have been busy scanning my film negatives which is turning into a massive project....I shot film for ten years so that's a whole lotta pictures.
It's been really great coming across some of my old images, some that I haven't seen for over a decade. It's kind of like hearing a song that you haven't heard in a long time. One second you're here, and then whoosh! the song takes you back to a time and place that you perhaps haven't thought about in ages. Kinda like a reference point, giving you a perspective on how you've changed and evolved, a different view of the chunk of time between then and now.
Here are some photos that are beginning of the Toledo project. I'm calling it the Toledo Project for now, but hopefully I can come up with a more appropriate and creative title. I've always been bad with titles so hopefully it will come to me as this body of work progresses. I chose Toledo for now because the images are of Toledo.
This body of work is about issues of loss and change and is really in its nascent form. We'll see where it goes from here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I can't believe it's been a year since I posted on my blog. Actually, I can believe it. And I'm not feeling great about it, but what can you do. Life happens, and you go through the motions and all of a sudden you realize that you haven't done the things that you set out to do and blah blah blah. It happens.
Actually, I do have a good excuse for not posting for so long. I had to relocate from New York to Toledo to take care of my mom who-the day after I returned to Toledo- passed away quite quickly and unexpectedly from cancer. The day after she died I found out that the State of Ohio is taking her house-which essentially was supposed to be my house as it's been in my family for 70 years-because her insurance didn't cover everything. Needless to say, it was a bad week. I actually bailed to Southeast Asia for the winter to prevent the onset of a nervous breakdown that I felt was coming down on me, hard, fast, and with no mercy.
It's been a year now-almost a year to the day of my last blog entry, as a matter of fact-and I'm feeling more capable and together. I'm still in Toledo, a bit longer than I thought I would be, but it's good. I need to stay here to settle my mom's estate anyways and it just feels right to be here for a while. Because this is where I grew up, it's good to come to terms with the loss here. Besides some documentary work I did in Taiwan last winter, this year was pretty unproductive. It's recently been all coming back to me and I'm starting to focus on my work again-using recent events to fuel my image making which consequently is making me experience a catharsis of sorts, difficult though it may be.
Even though I always said I'd never live in Toledo again, I'm beginning to realize that no matter how much you try to plan, life is just full of surprises and it's best to let the wrenches turn as they may. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? One good thing about being in Toledo is that I'm free from the exorbitant cost of living that I experienced in New York City, which consequently gives me a lot more time to make work instead of slaving away at some dumb job to pay my $1000 rent.
Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read. This background information, I feel, is good to keep in mind when viewing my blog as it's what's fueling a lot of the images I'm presently making.