What I love about photography, or art in general, is that it’s all about taking a moment personal to you and putting it on the big stage. I just graduated from art school, and sometimes it feels like I spent four and a half years wildly gesturing at a screen or a series of prints while saying, “How can you not care about this thing that happened to only me, but felt so big that it was the whole world?” Everyone was so interested in before and after the moment. They wanted to know why I made something, why I hadn’t thought about x before I made it. I spent most of the time barely able to chase the thing that I couldn’t even begin to think about the why. I felt like spending too much time on the why would give the moment too much time to pass; it was a race I would always lose.
I know there is more to making than this, and I know that art’s job is to push beyond the personal to the political, the global. That if the point of your making is just to serve yourself then you will miss so much opportunity to help others. You will miss the opportunity to think outside of yourself through your medium. That’s what these images are, I guess. They are traces of me that I found in the world; they are the moment right before the moment happened, so sweet to me I feel almost shy showing you, my cards laid out on the table.
Throughout quarantine I have been thinking about space: the space we keep between one another now, our eyes darting around to calculate six feet of apartness. I think about the space between our hopes and our realities during this pandemic, staring at a calendar as we feel our control over life, or any semblance or illusion of it, taken away from us. Looking through my photos, it can feel like there’s only space. In my memories, the photos I take are filled with a golden warmth, a sticky sweetness. When I get the film back, I am always struck by the emptiness, the spaciness to them. It can feel like I haven’t really captured anything, like the moment I took is a second too early or a second too late and there is nothing left to hold on to. This collaboration with Fer, and her illustrations within my images, points at how space is not meant to be empty, but rather offers an opportunity to be filled. Space is about potential and about creating a ground to explore and grow on.
During this pandemic and the recent protests, it has felt like there has been nothing but miles of space between what I thought I understood and the things I’m seeing in front of me. That the space between what I know now and what I need to learn about being a good ally is too great. That the space between COVID-19 starting and COVID-19 ending is too great. Like there is nothing but space between who I was at the start of all of this and where I am now, and trying to understand that distance leaves me feeling paralyzed. When I feel the walls caving in, when I feel that this space we have created is insurmountable, I try to imagine it as potential, rather than a pit: the potential for growth, the potential for change. I imagine it as a never-ending space for improvement in how we treat one another, a space that allows for infinite empathy. Not an absence, but a presence of change.
Words and photos by Maddie Rogers. Illustrations by Fernanda Paola.