These images come on the heels of some demanding, treacherous, emotional deep-diving. It was a plunge I had resisted consistently until I believed I didn’t need to go there. Then, the dull ache of feeling other became a searing pain, and I was forced to look at my open wounds. Would I sink? Or swim?
I’d made the mistake of guarding my damage—carrying it around, projecting it everywhere—instead of healing, because I was afraid of the cost. Vulnerability and visibility terrified me. I burrowed down inside myself to keep safe, cutting myself off from the real world. Loneliness was the answer… until I realized that I was my problem. It wasn’t everything that had hurt me, it was what I believed those experiences meant about me.
Accepting my multitudes and rejecting the lies is now a daily practice of mine. Progress isn’t linear, but progress at all is new for me. This visual story and its themes of love, isolation, and emergence are a culmination of the work I’ve been doing on me.
This concept’s beginning was completely driven by aesthetics. I wanted to make a mermaid-inspired character, a bubblegum Jean Harlow. Once I decided to take self-portraits, placing myself in the series took on its own sort of meta narrative. Making the work more personal helped me move past my creative blocks, and it was cathartic! I’m thankful for everything that reminds me of the strength in bearing yourself.
Ting Ting Chen