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MARY MAGDALENE

For this final portfolio (Photography: Concept and Process, Spring 2022), I dealt with many changes in my hopes for how it would turn out. My initial inspiration and who I planned to emulate was Rinko Kawauchi, a female photographer who focuses on the aesthetic presentation of her photos as series. Themes of hers include birth and death, beauty, and the philosophical and spiritual accordance with nature that all living things share. I decided to make this my focus for the work.

 

For the past 10 years, my grandfather has been battling cancer. He has been a constant my whole life and a man whom I look up to intensely; he was virtuous, generous, wise, hilarious, brilliant, warm, and most importantly, forgiving and resilient. He was described by many people as “saintly.” Over the years, he relapsed and fought over and over again, achieving the cancer-free status multiple times. However, my mom told me around the beginning of this semester that he was very sick again. To be frank, I didn’t even fathom that he could die, I didn’t consider that outcome, no matter how childish or ignorant that sounds. I knew he was old, I knew he was getting weaker, but, to me, he was invincible.

 

But, as the semester moved on, more and more of my time became consumed with this inevitable fact that he would die soon. This impacted all of my work, especially my classes and my photos. I traveled back and forth all semester to be with family, up until just a few weeks ago, when I finally let him go. In the airport on my way back home after his death, I felt empty. I still feel fairly empty, and it’s a radically new feeling, this loss. But I have never felt more in touch and consumed with my grandfather’s essence as I do now, and I chose to reflect that in this portfolio.

 

My grandfather leaned deeply into his faith the more sick he became. I have never been a religious person, but there is something to be said for the fact that death forces you to believe in something. He was never rigorous about his attendance at church, in fact, he almost never went. He took interest in the stories of the Bible, and especially the character, Mary Magdalene. He gave me a book about her last summer, a book I have spent my childhood staring at on the shelf, and it has been integral to my development and version of womanhood. No matter how much I didn’t attempt to incorporate the Catholic faith specifically into this project, my take on spirituality definitely took that shape.

I included photographs of my condolence flowers. What strikes me so acutely about this specific aspect of death and the grieving process is the impermanence of even the act of condolences, the gorgeous, curated bouquets of flowers meant to pacify your pain, make you remember the beauty in the world. Even these, too, die. I was inspired by and wanted to highlight this cycle, and did so with the two before and after photos of peonies I received from one of my closest friends, showing the existence and inevitable decay.

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