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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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Sam Bodenstein

SPE Member since 2016
Member Chapter: Midwest

Can We Talk About David?

How are we remembered by family and friends?

Can We Talk About David is an examination of this question and query into how our identity is built from the constructs of family, as well as those with whom we surround ourselves. This work, which is comprised of found photographic images and handwritten texts, is my attempt to connect with a cousin whom I never met, while discussing the reality of diminishing an individual into an established stereotype.

Physically inserting my perspective into familial memories, these images verbally and visually communicate my fear of continuing a cycle of reduction. Identifying someone by general characteristics is demeaning and renders a one-dimensional figure; personality traits and other defining characteristics are forgotten or ignored. There are two planes of identity, one that defines itself in relation to those around you and one that occupies within; a piece sticking out for all to see but a large amount hidden below the surface. In the family unit, we are assigned a place within a group, and often, this designation overshadows and reduces our unique characteristics.

Only a single label remains.

There was no indication of who David was, what he did, or what his life was like. All I knew was that, like me, David occupied the role of "the family gay". Conversations with his sister revealed that he was colorful, happy and in love, but that all fell apart when he took Factor 8, a blood clotting treatment for hemophiliacs, that was tainted with the AIDS virus. With this disclosed information, the process evolved from finding connections between a set of individuals to a conversation on how to break this reduction of the family archetype, so that the cycle does not repeat with me.

acceptance X

family setting (letter I)

growing up (letter III)

becoming (letter IV)

still missing (letter VI)

what was said I

what was said II

what was said III

I want more I

I want more II

I want more III

regression I

regression II

regression III

distance I

distance II

distance III

acceptance I

acceptance II

acceptance III

acceptance IV

acceptance V

acceptance VI

acceptance VII

acceptance VIII

acceptance IX

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