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The 'Up-Close' series is meant to be seen on a large screen. Please go full-screen by pressing Control⌃ + Command⌘ + F if on a Mac, or press F11 if using Windows. Please put your screen brightness on full.
Feel free to scroll down from here or select a name to see the photographs and words of that person. Names in quotes are pseudonyms.
Getting tattoos and making the art of my body a visible reflection of the things that I value has been a way to feel more comfortable in my skin and to create the home that I want to have live. And I guess it's sort of the way that I treat spaces outside of myself as well. I guess, because it is a process of slowly letting go, letting go in the moment. But also, you know, I look at my tattoos every day because they're part of me and there are things that I probably wouldn't get now, or look different than they did five years ago, or look different than I was imagining them, too.
And every day I have to wake up again, look at it, accept it, and embrace it. And the parts of my body that have tattoos are easier for me to embrace in some ways because it's a choice that I made and I got to sort of create what that space looks like. But it also will never be the version of it that lived in my head before it existed in real space.
So it's also reprocessing all the time. What it actually means to me in that moment. And and it's something that I will carry forward so that even when I'm not this version of myself that will come with me, you know? And I think a lot about the fact that it's every seven years, every cell in your body is supposed to regenerate, every seven years you're supposed to, on a physical level, be a completely new version of yourself. But that doesn't erase choices that you've already made. And I think tattoos are a really interesting visual reminder of the fact that you are a continuous person.
I don't want to erase the versions of myself that have existed before. Even if there are things that I don't like about those versions of myself. Because I think you learn something from every person that you are. And I feel like tattoos are a way to carry myself with me all the time. But in the Jewish faith, tattoos are essentially sacrilegious. They're sort of "anti" to the view of of your body already being whole, I guess, which is the reason that tattoos given to victims of the Holocaust was such a big deal.
And because of that, part of the choice to get tattoos for me was prioritizing being at home in myself versus being at home in my community in some ways, because that's an irreversible choice. Even if you get a tattoo removed, you still can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery. And that's a big deal to know that there is something that is going to set me apart from parts of my family for the rest of my life, and that there are people, my father included, who are never going to be happy with that choice.
But I also think part of our responsibility of continuing our family's legacy is (in what whatever that looks like for you) deciding what your own boundaries are, when your sense of self takes precedence over what other people think about your choices. And I think your skin should be that boundary at the very least. You should get to decide what your home is going to look like.
I've always been petrified that I'm going to lose my vision. So I do this thing where I turn the lights off and try to do stuff without any light; go up and down stairs and prep things for cooking and get dressed and undressed and shower. And because of that, I am more connected to my body than ever, I think, as I get older. Because I have to catalog the way that everything changes. Because when you take one of your senses away, everything else is heightened. So I am very aware of the angles and curves and shapes that exist on myself because I spend so much time with myself physically.
One of the things that's been nice about getting older is that I really like the freckles and like other things that used to make me uncomfortable or self-conscious. I don't feel that way anymore. And being old enough to have more autonomy over what I can do to my skin and what I can do with my body, I think has made me more comfortable with it.
One of the weirdest things I've ever done in my life was teach over Zoom for a year and a half. And one of the challenges about that was that I had to hear myself and look at myself for 7 hours a day, all the time.
I had to get comfortable with seeing my face reflected back at me, not just at the angles I had curated and wanted to have photographed, but in the middle of having conversation with my kids or reading a book or whatever it was.
And I think that actually kind of satisfied a part of my brain that I didn't know existed that wanted to, I guess, have a fuller sense of what I actually look like in space, because I think it's hard to actually feel at home in yourself. You only ever see your best angles reflected, I guess.
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