I was born and raised in the Southern states of America. My mother and father, both from very poor families, met during the Vietnam-American war. I grew up on Army bases with an older brother as my guardian and my hero. He was a natural artist and could sketch or paint anything he imagined. I was always envious of the artist in him. I lived in his shadow until I moved to California.
At the age of 21, I left the South to pursue an education and find my path. I spent the next decade taking darkroom courses and working full time to pay for my California lifestyle. During my time as a business consultant for Apple, I had a break down. I had gotten very ill and spent time in the hospital recovering after a life saving surgery. It was a turning point for many aspects in my life. I decided to follow my dreams of becoming an artist and getting a degree in something I was passionate about. I applied to the undergraduate program at the Academy, it was 2008.
It has been a long road to recovery, mentally. I had fallen into a depression that would last over five years. This emotional roller coaster is how I fueled my creative spiral. I used the photography as therapy and my emotions as concepts. During my undergrad I learned about photography technically and conceptually. I learned about color and light and experimental methods of capture and print. I was so distracted by the academics and technicalities of art, I was able to push through my dark times.
Much of my duality stems directly from my life experiences. During and after my depression, I came to second guess myself and quickly become indecisive. The smallest tasks became enormous obstacles. I became agoraphobic, not leaving the safety of my bed, my island. It was these soul wrenching moments that I used to express myself. I began to shoot myself out of need of a subject then eventually my self portraits turned into my need to express myself, my therapy.
I used myself to learn lighting and conceptual thinking. I also used myself to push my Photoshop skills and composite. I used my own experiences, my own body and mind to produce pieces of my mind. Only recently was I able to convey my vision exactly as I see it in my head. All of the pieces I learned over the years started to come together this year. My confidence as a photographer is finally catching up to me and I can see the growth in my work.
The evolution of my Duality project is visually apparent. The images revealed where I was both mentally and technically in my work. I was using Photoshop to composite and beautiful landscapes to help create a surreal world, to construct my realities. The project was my therapy and my distraction.
Now in the second stage of development, I have grown as a photographer and a narrator. In these images, I’ve grown to appreciate my second nature and even nurture it. Technically the images are more dynamic, less flat. There is more of a commercial feel to them with a better quality of light and contrast. I feel that I am not just a photographer, but a conceptual story teller.
I’ve been deconstructing my nudes and creating landscapes out of them. It totally sounds silly but they make me smile. It’s purely for creation sake. It’s not some deep personal series. They’re either places I’ve been or daydream about. If I were a painter, I would paint them. Instead I use my camera as a tool to produce things that appease me. Not masterpieces but pieces of my memories composited together, a break from reality.
With last night’s shooting fresh on my mind, I dig into my archives.
The first time I heard someone screaming at me, “Get Down!”, I lived in San Francisco off Laguna & Eddy St. I recall 5 shots then, no victims this time. I was there for the aftermath, as usual. But not for long, the shots were related to gang violence and not a place for me. These are a few of my shots from the “do not cross” tape, provided by SFPD.
*** All images have been taken by Melody Hall and are copyright.
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