I Am BY Tyler Udall
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This was not easy. In fact, it was deeply irritating. When Tyler asked me to write something, I said, “Sure, no problem.” I mean, I was trained as an art historian in photography and spent the better part of my professional life working with photographers and contemporary artists. “I will just use all of those skills to whip something up,” I thought. Wrong.
After several weeks of looking and thinking, trying to apply frameworks and methodologies that previously served me well, nothing was making sense. I was annoyed—annoyed with myself, with the people in the photographs and with Tyler for making them. But, as is so often the case, my mental temper-tantrum gave way to exhaustion and then it finally clicked: I was trying to apply rules around identity to a place in which they are utterly inconsequential and obsolete. This is a world with inhabitants who resist categorization and refuse to be contained, brazenly occupying a space of fragmentation, fluctuation and fluidity. Think about that, at this particular moment when identity politics reign supreme, when all we want to do is Marie Kondo everything and everyone around us—fighting the relentless political, cultural, environmental, economic instability of our everyday—there is a community of individuals who choose to live their life beyond boxes, binaries or borders, fully in the present and totally on their terms.
You see my problem. These pictures and the people who occupy them not only refuse to fit into a box, my box to be specific, but they don’t see the box. They have zero awareness of or interest in our conventions of identity, photography or portraiture. What I initially read as peacocking, performing for the camera, is not. They are not posing. They are present-ing themselves in a moment which, by their own design, is slippery and in flux, just like their identity(s). And, to be clear, this does not mean they inhabit a space of interstitialities or between-ness. That would assume there are boxes and binaries to sit between. This world, Tyler’s world, is built upon a foundation of multiplicity, inclusivity and present-ness; divested of ego or narrative because nothing is fixed.
So, where does this leave us? Slightly disoriented, stuck between two worlds—ours and theirs. Trying to process images that on the surface read as portraits, and yet shirk any obligation to narrative coherence; fragments in a constant state of formation. My advice? Stop looking for linearity or individual portraits of people. Rather, accept that the portrait in front of you is a portrait of the “now,” of present-ness. What you are looking at is an army of ever-evolving individuals who are inviting you to join them in simply saying: I Am.
Foreword by Molly Logan
First edition 200 copies
Design by Studio Kunze
Published by The Little Black Gallery