IDENTITY

Final Chosen Photograph:

February 28, 2017…

Top Selected:

Week 1, selected…

One way that I define identity is the multiple facets that make a person who they are.  This includes so many different things.  Gender, age, sexual orientation, how one chooses to present themselves, their upbringing, where they live, their ethnicity, their religion, what they like to do, what they do for a living, who they spend their time with, and so on.  Identity is complex, and it is both a factor of how someone is born, and the choices they make in their lives.  I also feel that identity is not just for humans.  It can be used to classify non-human entities as well.  For example, in Graphic Design, I’m learning about the different classifications of typefaces.  Each typeface design can be identified by its characteristics, and classifying each typeface helps the designer to properly use specific fonts for specific purposes.  Another non-human application of identity that I think of is with regards to a small plot of land that abuts my backyard.  It used to be identified as “woods”.  It was once the home to various wildlife in the area.  A couple of years ago, the new owner of the lot had all the trees cut down, but has still not done anything else to it.  What was once shelter and a food source to wildlife, is now identified as an eyesore.  So, identity is as much about perceived visual characteristics, as it is about the deeper underlying facts, such as the purpose of a plot of land, a person’s religious beliefs, or which typeface is best used to make a poster, verses a wedding invitation.

Whether we are talking about the identity of people, land, elements of design, or anything else, there are some common threads used to define their respective identities. This can be compared to the process of visual analysis.  I use this comparison because at the root goal of visual analysis, is for the viewer to determine the artist’s intended meaning of the artwork.  The more facts that you have, to support the artist’s intent, the stronger the theory is for that meaning.  Thinking along those lines, the more that is known about the facts of a person, place, or thing, the more accurate we can be with its identity.  The first step is to describe what we see.  State the facts.  For example, “I see a female with long hair, wearing jeans and a sweater.”  Or, “I see land with a lot of tree stumps on it.”  This is not to say that identity is only about what can be seen, or even just a few quick facts that are not seen, as we will see in moment, but describing what we see, and defining the facts, can be a useful first step in learning the identity of someone, something, or even ourselves.  Let’s think about that for a moment.  If someone asked you, “what makes you, you”, what would your answer be?  I am sure we could all rattle off a few quick facts about ourselves.  For example, “I am a wife, mother, and college student”, but is that all that I truly am?  I would have to slow down, just as we do with description in visual analysis, and think about all the things that make up who I am, to give a full answer as to how I identify myself.  After description, we connect the dots with analysis, considering the context of the subject matter.  We thoughtfully elaborate the facts of what we see and how they relate to one another.  For example, “the female appears to be young, her jeans are tight, and her hair is braided.”  Or, “the tree stumps on that land appear to be healed over and not from freshly cut down trees.” From the latter example, we could deduct that the trees were cut down a while ago and this land appears to have no current intended purpose.  Identity is not only what we see on the surface, or a few quick facts.  It requires a thoughtful process and putting all the pieces together to define it.

It’s important to remember, that identity is fluid and it evolves over time, as with the example of the once wooded plot of land behind my house.  It is the fluidity of identity that inspired me to choose my fifteen-year-old daughter as the subject for my identity project.  She is still innocent.  Still very much a child, but on the cusp of full-fledged womanhood.  She is eagerly anticipating her Sweet Sixteen Birthday Celebration, only a handful of months away.  This is a pivotal time in her life.  She soon will be learning how to drive, looking at colleges, going to prom, and graduating from high school.  It is only two and a half years from now, that she will legally be considered an adult.  I want to artistically document my young daughter, capturing her identity, and what makes her who she is now, before she crosses that threshold.  I remember turning sixteen.  I didn’t have a fancy celebration, but looking back, it did feel like a transitional time in my life.  In some ways, I’m still the same person, and in other ways, much about me and how I identify myself now, has changed.  I shared this with my daughter and encouraged her to team up with me so that I could capture moments of who she is now, for her to look back on when she is older.  The challenge will be finding just one image that portrays enough about her current identity.