Making an object that exists solely to be captured in a photograph then discarded is a study in the Buddhist teaching of impermanence.
opening. © 2014 Karen Hyams. Silver halide print, 16 x 16 inches.
My photography studio is a very interesting place. I photograph abstract constructions that end up in the trash. I use traditional art materials like ink and gouache and a growing collection of craft supplies and props to make the constructions. Working on the constructions is part art, part craft.
As I make an image, everything gets passed through some part of me that searches for the weird. At every stage in the process, from observation to construction to photographing to processing, I look for and find ways to exploit the visual elements that intrigue me, and build a story using what I find. Photos that look like drawings evolve from interesting lines, while fabric and foil make otherworldly landscapes. The final image is a picture of the world that developed in my mind as I worked on it. I reuse ideas and materials, and as they get combined into something new, the images get quirkier and better realized.
Making an object that exists solely to be captured in a photograph then discarded is a study in the Buddhist teaching of impermanence. After almost all my work spanning twenty years was stolen, making peace with the temporary nature of life seemed like the only sane reaction. I needed a way to let go of the deep grief I experienced and a way to move forward without fear. I deliberately chose to see my old body of work as a burden of which I was now free, which liberated me to start in a new direction.
Creating then destroying my own work is an ongoing and deeply spiritual practice. There is something godlike about it. The process makes me think of both the Buddha’s detachment and the Hindu god Shiva’s destruction of creation in order to shatter ego. karenhyams.com
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Karen Hyams is the engagement coordinator at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in Woodinville, Washington, where she is a member.
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