Before I left the US for Germany, I started work on a series of cliché verre c-prints of lace. I set them aside, not knowing what they were for. They were layered, intricate, feminine, and at times strangely bloody looking.
As I settled into my life in Germany, I started playing with the prints. I cut them up, collaging them together into abstract yet somewhat representational shapes. As I worked with them, one shape became prominent: that of a gun.
While living in the US, I had become inured to the daily reports of gun violence on the news. Now, with the privilege that comes with looking in from the outside, I became more and more horrified at how saturated with gun violence American culture is. This isn't to say that I hadn't noticed it while living there; I rallied after Oscar Grant's death in San Francisco and remember crying on a bus when reading as the reports of the Newtown massacre came in.
However, here, I stand as a representative of the United States, and our gun culture is one of the things I am asked about most regularly by people I meet. I regularly encounter people who are too afraid of our violent culture to visit. This is supported by the fact that multiple countries have now issued official warnings to tourists about our gun violence.
I open the news and every week I see reports of police shooting innocent people. The risk of getting shot by a toddler is greater than of being a victim of a terrorist attack. Mass shootings happen every week. Women are routinely gunned down by their partners because they tried to leave, or by strangers because they spurned their advances. This is America. While I know that overall the US is safer than it has ever been, it's still killing 13,000 people a year with guns.
And so I sit in my studio, thousands of miles away, raging at my culture that can't seem to do anything, and make gun after lacy gun, exploding with blood drips and anger and sadness.
My days of losing words
My days of losing words
I have had chronic migraine since June 2008. Without medication, the pain makes me lose the ability to speak; with medication, I have side effects that cause me to forget words. In “My days of losing words”, I create color photographs that act as synthetic memories of my lost words and this overall time of being inarticulate and in pain. The one-word titles refer back to words that got lost in the netherworld between pain and sanity. The self-portraits remain (inarticulately) untitled.
Despite the pain, I never stop shooting. I carried a list of words that I’ve ‘lost’ over time, and when I would see something that jogged my memory of a word, I shot it and crossed the word off. Early on in the illness, I was stuck between my house and medical spaces for months on end, so I started shooting words there. The early work consists of three types of images: domestic still life images; documentary images of medical spaces; and self-portraits at home and in medical spaces.
For a long time, I thought my headache was as good as it was going to get- constant, low-grade pain. Thanks to a medical breakthrough, I now finally have days without pain. The end of the series has meant the inclusion of new work that shows how my life has improved. Natural light, once rare in my photos, began to creep in and take over images. The tunnel vision of my earlier photographs gave way to space, light, and eventually, a vast expanse of a new horizon, both figuratively and literally.
Rachael Jablo has photographed urban landscape, domestic interiors, and self-portraits for years. Her series, My days of losing words, was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2013, and has been featured at the Museum für Photographie in Braunschweig, 2014 Encuentros Abiertos in Argentina, and at a solo show at UCLA in winter 2013-2014. Jablo’s work has been featured on Slate, Lenscratch, L’Oeil de la Photographie, ABC News Los Angeles, and National Public Radio. Her new work explores gun violence in America through collages of cliché verre c-prints. Jablo received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2003. She splits her time between Berlin and San Francisco.
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