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Portfolio & Interview: Marina Black on When the Room Becomes Water


photo-eye Gallery Interview & Portfolio: Marina Black on When the Room Becomes Water photo-eye is pleased to announce When the Room Becomes Water by Marina Black, new to the Photographer's Showcase. In this series, Black's distressed black and white self portraits are a personal psychological investigation catalyzed by the effects of intense and intimate loss.
Introduction – Marina Black 
photo-eye is pleased to announce When the Room Becomes Water by Marina Black, new to the Photographer's Showcase. In this series, Black's distressed black and white self portraits are a personal psychological investigation catalyzed by the effects of intense and intimate loss. While literally stitching herself together, Black explores aspects self awareness, revelation, and catharsis in her images. Prints are available in limited editions of 10, and are produced with archival pigment inks.
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Lucas Shaffer:     What inspired the When the Room Becomes Water portfolio?

Marina Black:     A few years ago, two of my friends died suddenly — one of them committed suicide. Both suffered from depression. These two deaths happened so unexpectedly, so close to one another that they made me kind of forget how to speak my own language. As a way of dealing with it, I began photographing the series Half of the Room — making portraits of people who experienced loss and trauma. However, the images I was making were as much about me as they were about the people I was photographing, as if my hands were rifling in the coffin for the aching phantoms of my own life. It seemed only natural to continue on the inevitable journey of exploring this place, this room that exists inside me. Thus the series of self-portraits When The Room Becomes Water began, as an attempt at making a name for the dark parts of me.

Mending – Marina Black 

LS:     Have you been able to name the 'darker parts of yourself'? Has the process of making these images brought about any new personal awareness or change in personal behavior?
Once Blinded Eyes – Marina Black

MB:     Imagine you’re looking out at the field that is covered by a fog; you can tell that there is something in it but you can’t quite make it out. If you sit long enough you begin to recognize the shape of the tree, for instance. The more you allow yourself to experience something, the more pronounced it becomes. And perhaps you’d like to see more. It’s not out of bravery for me, but somewhat out of panic. The irony though is that the fog never entirely disappears. Just as it is difficult sometimes to tell the difference between dreams and memories, the line between ignorance and knowledge can be quite subtle. "To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees'" a quote frequently attributed to Paul Valéry, has a quality that is both searching and poetic. I am not sure if Valéry actually said it, but I think of these words every once in a while when I photograph. What if the process of photographing/seeing is an equivalent to a return with the purpose of dismantling the past? Creating a fiction through photography is for finding things out and it changes as the need of sense-making changes. It is a necessity and a paradox as one cannot completely understand its true nature. I close one door, but the knock comes in from another onto a room with no walls. Being grief-stricken by the death of a friend in particular, or any other discernible events — the birth of a child, a serious illness,
 Bird – Marina Black
unspoken expressions of love, impossible intuitions that might strike like lightening — can bring one closer to a reality that is rather dark. These events circle us back to places that beg for attention whether we consciously want it or not. With time they made me realize that what had seemed terrible, on just another spiral of re-living, could become bearable. Change might require an enormous amount of effort but then you somehow bear that too. Since the beginning of my photographic practice I have been interested in the symbolism of ‘home.’ Some of it might have to do with living through immigration and the collapse of culture I grew up with. The more I think about it, the more I realize my intention is to find a place that is anything but decorous and full of thin-veneered pretense; a place, where one would feel content in a precious but threadbare safety net of a ‘cheerful’ life, conventional normality and a simplistic idea of how 'things should be.’ Many of us might guess that things are not really going quite right but would resist admitting it. Behind this curtain hides the dreadful sense of living trapped in a fraud. What happens when you are no longer onstage but in a lonely room at night facing your own death? No matter how mad, pale, mute or loudly explosive, this reality could be, I prefer living through it rather than maintaining the air of the group merriment that many of us are so eager to exhibit. Despair, this way, is the price that one pays for abandonment of, what Nietzsche called "the worst of all evils" — hope, uncovering the illusions and gaining self-awareness. It would be naïve, of course, to believe that I am entirely free, or ever will be. But it feels more like being alive.

Fusion – Marina Black

LS:     What process are you using to make these images, how are they being altered, and what materials are you using?

MB:     I take pictures using a medium format film camera. I alter empty negatives by cutting, scraping away and stapling. Afterwards I layer them digitally with the shots I took. I like the tactile qualities of collaging and dealing with fragments that take me to a new place. I was originally trained as a painter and the physical process of reworking the surface has affected my photography. It gives the space for accidents to happen. As a Canadian poet Anne Carson once said, "In surfaces, perfection is less interesting." I would like to expand these words into my photo practice. I begin with having some dim idea of a picture. Sometimes I make sketches prior but they are always undergoing a transformation. In a way, it’s, again, a recycling process.

Burning House – Marina Black 
LS:     How did you get started making photographs?

MB:     I took a lot of detours before turning to photography. Even though I used to draw and paint since I was a child, and it made me very happy, the word 'artist' had a flare of magic and also was profoundly intimidating. I couldn’t seriously imagine becoming ever good at it. So I went to study Russian History at University. Upon finishing my degree, I did some freelancing as a writer and translator for various magazines and wrote poems. In my mid-twenties, I started to take drawing and painting classes that eventually provided some sense of technical competence. When I moved to Canada, for practical reasons (I couldn’t afford to rent a studio) and being uncertain about what I wanted to do painting wise, I started to photograph to make at least something creatively. I haven’t thought at the time that what looked like an interim decision would extend for another 15 or so, years. History and drawing have never left me entirely. History got transformed into recording personal histories, and I continue to make drawings. They also have found their way into my photography.

View the complete When the Room Becomes Water portfolio.

For more information on Marina Black and When the Room Becomes Water contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505.988.5152 x 121 or anne@photoeye.com

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