james thomas wang

Realities

A photo essay on feeling disconnected from the past.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent a year at my childhood home. After spending years living across the country, I found myself disconnected from these old surroundings, uncoupled from the people and roads and buildings and parks and schools that both raised and hurt me. These photos are my way of grappling with this derealization, my way of comparing realities.

The spatial resolution of black-and-white film, especially in large format, is magnitudes higher than that of even the most advanced digital cameras available today. I converted the bathroom and bedroom where I had spent so much of my adolescence into a darkroom. There, I hand-developed and contact-printed a mixture of large- and small-format film, loyally documenting reality with emulsion and developer in the highest resolution possible.

And yet, which reality does the emulsion capture? That of a child, altered by the erosion of memory and time? That of a lost college student retracing their steps? Or that of someone else, somewhere else, somewhen else?

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