Saturday, February 27, 2010

As seen by others.

I sometimes obsess over what people think of me, and I wonder if I do things that bother them, or if I've offended them, and they're just not telling me. I've directly asked this to many of my friends many times, and I once got the reply, "Jacob, you know what bothers me about you? You worry that you're bothering me!"

This essay reflects this obsessive habit. I asked people to ask me questions about me, and then I'd photograph my response. Then, they sent me their own responses to the questions they asked, and I found images that corresponded (either my own photographs, or others).

Question from Shae:
what do you consider to be your heritage, and are you proud of that heritage?

Shae's answer:
combination of things based on family, religion, nationality, culture, and relations; and indeed proud of that heritage, although maybe that heritage isn't as defined as desired.

Thelonious Monk and his band. Shae said my heritage was a combination of things thrown together to make one, but that it wasn't clearly defined. His answer reminded me of a jazz band: they're all individuals, all with their own histories, but they improvise together to create a whole. Their individual identities react with the other members of the band, and and how they react is based on their own uniqueness. Each member of the band is like each part of my heritage that Shae mentioned. In the band, each member comes together to form one improvised sound; similarly, all these aspects of my heritage interact and create the single identity that is me, even though I could never understand how intricately their interaction really is.

My Answer to Shae:

Growing up, we'd often have simple meals of fruit, cheese, toast, and herb tea on Sunday evenings. I loved it. But, I could definitely not have eaten such laid-back meals all my life. This symbolizes my heritage: I come from a simple, blue collar family, and I loved our simple, carefree life. But, I tire of that simplicity. Am I proud of it? Yes, in a way, but I crave accomplishment and excitement. I want more, and less, all at the same time.

Question from John, my brother:
What would have been, for you, the greatest earthly misfortune you could have been made to endure?

John's Answer:
To never have known the love of your family. In the Tennysonian way, to never have had the love of family would have been worse than to have lost it to catastrophe. You would have seen such love in the world and felt the dull and lasting sting of its absence.

I think this image is from about five years ago. My two brothers and my two nephews. Had I never known this, or anything like it, my life would have indeed been a tragedy.

My Answer to John:

My immediate thought on reading John's question was, "The worst thing that could ever have happened would be the loss of any of my family members.' I chose this photo of my nephews because, in my interactions with them, I feel the love of family the strongest. I also chose an image of my nephews because they are the most vulnerable, which also references our own vulnerability. Though their faces are innocent, they are surrounded by darkness. In the same way, though I love my family dearly, I could lose any or all of them at any given time.

Question from Kerianne:
Jacob, why are you so hard on yourself and difficult to read and feel close to?

Keri's Answer:
Maybe because you are very introverted and fear rejection. You even fear self rejection by your actions. Perhaps this is why you have a developed sense of guilt, and a skeptical eye on your actions. Maybe this skepticism keeps you from getting close enough to expose yourself in unsafe environments.

This little guy is a figure I've been drawing for years in my journal's and elsewhere. He's always represented all the shortcomings that Keri mentioned, shortcomings I've been well aware of for as long as I've been drawing him.

My Answer to Kerianne:

I've got a habit, I used to do it a lot more than I do now, where I'd stand in the bathroom, late at night, and stare into the mirror for hours on end. I would stare and find every flaw on myself that I could. Then for long moments, I would think and brood without really even seeing what was in front of me. It was narcissistic, it was vain, but very self-critical.

But at least I'm aware of it.


  1. This post is ... incredible... and I'm not sure that even does it justice. There is something so endearing about the vulnerability in this piece. I find it so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your post really moved me. I tried doing something similar, but the answers to my questions from friends and family were really superficial and very unsatisfactory. I feel like I know really important things about you, now. I hope you can find good things, too, when you're looking in that mirror for hours!

  3. This is one of my favorite projects from this class. I love that you pulled pictures from all different styles and times. You really captured the heart of your concept.

  4. You are always so original! I really like this project because it is so different from everyone's. The black and white really unifies the different subjects.

  5. wow! I really love the idea of this Jacob! I would love to see more pictures

  6. This is so honest. I really appreciate that.