Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


School of Art

First Advisor

Andreas Fischer


I rediscovered a family photo box two years ago. An image of my grandfather sat on the top of the piles in the Tupperware box. The photo created an immediate intensity and infected the entire family photobox. My grandfather committed suicide twenty years before I was born. From the point of this discovery I have needed to explore why vernacular photographs can create haunting resonances. There seem to be limits to the information we can glean from photographs like this one. Photographs like this one activate our desires to fill in unknown details. They also encourage personal hauntings and lingering myths. This gap between knowledge and experience is the starting point of my thesis. I use narratives and mythology in a photomedia practice to explore limits of knowledge and mysterious entanglements provoked by our experiences with vernacular photography.

One way mythology emerges is from epistemic unclarity. Photos and their framing are starting points for constructions of identity. Framing is literal: albums, shoe boxes, scrapbooks, wallet-keepsakes, digitization, among other forms. A desire to know what’s outside the frame and the unknown elements of a photograph activates the viewer’s narrative impulse. The uncanniness ignites this activation in images that are both near and far to the viewer. Thus I choose to investigate family photographs and the photos I’ve owned the longest.

The investigation in my work is oriented toward what I see as the warm, loving, and tender features of technology. Cell phone photos and videos, homemade scans, and prints on bond paper can all have warmth. I collect and concentrate photographic actions and objects. I rub, cut, sweat on, wash, sleep with, scan, sand, and tape together these photos. The actions can be destructive, but my process embodies an urgency. The process is a way for me to live with the pictures rather than letting them sit in the attic. I touch and sometimes destroy the photos to collect more information. I erase the ghosts, create new ones, or find a way to live with them. These empirically-fruitless activities are a research practice. This auto-ethnographic research practice holds contradictory approaches to photography together like fact and fiction, documentation and feeling, and seen and invisible. Holding these ideas together at once suggests photos are slippery objects. They exist in in-between states. This flux creates a messy cold scientific, warm tender presence to photographs.


Imported from ProQuest Hamilton_ilstu_0092N_11668.pdf


Page Count


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Fine Arts Commons