One Picture Per Year: 1987 – 2007
It can be real strange, and hard too, to look back at your entire existence in pictures. Last week, I spent several hours going through the first twenty years of my life, all of our family albums and early digital pictures – the exact two decades before I became a photographer myself. I chose one image from each year, though as the years went on, there was sometimes only one to choose from. Most of the early photos were shot by my mother on 35mm film, and you can really see how much I've borrowed from her sense of composition, the quality of character and light.

I was always a mentally chaotic child, but for twelve years, that never impacted how I saw myself. The internal anxiety could be overwhelming, but I was good with the world, never worried about fitting in. The lack of awareness is something special to me, looking back to these portraits and seeing no concern for how I came across. The one of me with my grandpa's dog is the last time that's true. Everything after comes with a growing awareness of my personal appearance, the overwhelming awkwardness of being too tall and thin, and dealing with what other kids thought of me. But my shifting self-image was more shattering than any external opinion. I just stopped recognizing myself, and couldn't get it back.

My dad took the final picture in August 2007, of me with his old racing bike that I'd recently rebuilt. This was right before leaving on a solo road trip, from the Saint John ferry, across the state of Maine and into New Hampshire. This was the first time that I had no escape from my thoughts, stuck with myself for weeks on end. It was physically draining (pedaling for eight hours a day), but even harder emotionally, dealing with the darkness I'd gathered in the past few years. I turned twenty in the town of Farmington, camped out in the woods behind a movie theater.

When I came home that fall, everything seemed the same, but I was determined to be less distant from than before. I started a daily photography journal, something I've kept uninterrupted in the ten years since. As part of it, I take a self-portrait every day, along with the other images. The reasons were practical. I needed to swallow my sense of alienation, and stop hiding all the time. If I'm honest, I hated my appearance, and it took years before I was finally desensitized enough to by okay with myself in a picture or in the mirror.

I'm not nostalgic in the sense that I want to go back in time. Childhood had many high points, with a lot of wonder and imagination, but I was never more afraid or at odds with the world. I thought about death a lot, because I was so close to birth. Life seemed tenuous, and terrifying in a way that I would never choose to relive. But my memories are vibrantly intact. I personally recall the taking of all but the first two of these pictures, and I was always telling stories about last week or last year, making mental connections and bridging gaps between the constellations of memories in my mind. You only have what you remember, and this is a small sliver of what I do.


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