I was able to photograph a former rehab clinic in the south side of Chicago. It was an incredible exploration. More photos can be found here.
There is a pernicious cruelty to loneliness, or at least, the particular kind that incessantly erodes at my well-being.
I would like to start with that I am blessed to be surrounded by a loving family so numerous I cannot name a fair portion of immediate cousins. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have friends that not only insist on socializing, but do so with regular frequency to the point where I have to decline invitations. In the community I am surrounded by characters who can be dropped in upon unannounced to bring excitement to an otherwise empty day.
A wealth of family, friends, and community provide distraction from the thing that I crave most: a match, a partner, a companion, a better half, a woman who reciprocates love and affection. This is an emotional poverty that I often feel completely powerless to resolve.
At some point in every day, when the distractions fail to take my mind off such things, it is there. Omnipresent, malignant, and wrenching. It is there to greet you the minute you wake in the morning. It is there to remind you when you see a couple walking hand-in-hand. It there as you slavishly swipe on dating apps with daily notifications of your solitude.
I feel like a puzzle piece thrown into a box that does not match the larger picture. There is a drive to fill the gap furrowed close to my center. Sometimes the connections sort of fit, but do not feel right. Other times the color or texture is close, but not enough.
There is a stigma to loneliness that makes it difficult not only to acknowledge publicly, but also privately amongst family and friends. After posting the first few photos I had taken people were not sure exactly how to react. On social media where attention is currency, people are presented with an internal conflict as to whether or not to push that like button. What do we do when the systems designed to bring people together fall short of being able to address an entire component of the human experience, namely pain and suffering? If you press the like button, does it offer that person any respite from it? Or does it incentivize the behavior to further create distractions?
After its initial conception it took months to take the first step in this melancholy project. It bears open a wound that most had no idea has been festering for so long. It places me in a position of direct vulnerability on a platform notorious for criticism, abuse, and vile comments.
Weekly I will sit down and take a simple headshot with a single light source. Editing will be kept to a bare minimum. In each one I will pose the same way, keep a blank affect, and try to mimic the prior photo before without referencing it. The repetition of which will keep the photo looking very similar to the rest, while maintaining the originality of each one.
Therein lies the ruthlessness of this loneliness. It may take different forms, but it is essentially the same corrosive matter. It persists, on and on and on and on, without any hint of what or where or when or how or with whom to end it. It is a banal torture that seems only luck, fate, or coincidence appears to resolve.
In all honesty my heart wants nothing more than this project to come to a swift conclusion. Given the improbabilities involved the reality is likely that it won’t. Loneliness is a silent killer of the mind, body, and soul. But if I stand by and do nothing how will that ever change?