Nick and Me 2000-2006
For six years, I worked on a series of documentary projects that touched on themes of childhood, adolescence, sexuality, puberty, and gender stereotypes. In 2000, I began photographing my nephew, Nick. I was thinking about gender as performance. Just as Julia Margaret Cameron had her models perform as religious icons, I had Nick perform in the role of a woman, showing that gender isn't something fixed but rather, performed. Nick, who was then 11 years old, was (as I believe most adolescents are) androgynous, and someone that I could work with to recreate a romanticized femininity. I was emulating the tradition of the nineteenth century romanticized images, referencing Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron photograph's of children. However, I was not trying to recreate the way that Cameron idealized her subjects or Carroll lusted after his.
Chapter 2 in the series presents a brief moment in the relationship between my nephew Nick and me. I wanted to document him as an androgynous child on the verge of puberty. During the shoot, Nick and I went to the studio and attempted to act out our similarities (head gestures etc.) while performing as the opposite gender. I made the pictures with our nude shoulders and heads to avoid making specific references to time, class or gender. The Polaroids (Chapter 3 in the series) began August 13, 2003 as a response to moving away from my family home in Riverside, California while I attended Cal Arts. Nick remained in Riverside; the Polaroids became a way to continue the dialog we began in Chapter 2. We each made a Polaroid self-portrait everyday. The Polaroids not only documented our similarities and differences but also served as a visual record of the project as a whole.
In Chapter 3 Nick had complete control of his own image, he chose when and where to make the photographs of himself. Often the resulting outcomes were surprisingly similar. There have been some important and unexpected consequences for both of us working on these projects. I saw myself beginning to mimic him more and more. What started off with me mimicking Nick and his hairstyles by means of shaving or growing out my hair has manifested itself into something larger, and the lines between this project and our lives were not as clear as they once were. It had now gotten to the point were we mimic each other unconsciously and had begun to feel somewhat accountable to each other.
Chapter 4 (not represented) is the final chapter in the series. Regarding the other chapters before changing our appearance, it was common practice for each of us to ask the other for permission. Perhaps it was inevitable but it was brought to my attention that Nick had begun to dress like me. At the time I was not certain if this was a natural side effect of the project or just a coincidence. Nick and I decided to have someone else make a video of us separately. In this video we would not perform as one another but merely exist as our selves in that day, finally achieving autonomy from one another….