Justin Carney

Because I Live
Location: Indianapolis
Nationality: American
Biography: Justin A. Carney is an artist and educator that uses autobiographical photography to question how death and grief affect familial connections—the bonds that keep a family together and cause them to separate, and how grief shapes an... MORE
Public Story
Because I Live
Copyright Justin A. Carney 2024
Updated Mar 2024
Topics Spotlight
            Because I Live looks toward images from my family album to question how one’s relationship to photographs changes after the death of a loved one, and the effects of forgetting. I’ve forgotten many aspects of my grandmother since her passing, and no matter how hard I try to recall how she looked, how her hair felt, and how her voice sounded, I can’t find a clear picture. When looking at images of her from my family album, there is an opposition of closeness within my mind and a distance within my heart. Although the photograph is a visual representation of her, there is a disconnect between image, memory, and feeling. The photograph exists within a limbo of familiarity and unfamiliarity; it is of her, but it is not her.
            Because I Live visualizes these feelings of disconnection, forgetting, and grief by using photography, sanding with sandpaper, incomplete photo transfers, and layering with transparency paper. The family album is an object that one revisits to reminisce on or discover the past, and often these images are used as memory aids. In this work, I erase elements from the photograph by sanding with sandpaper on the printed image and obscure other elements through photo transfer as a way of subverting this idea of a memory aid. The abstracted and obscured photographs become a type of searching for my grandmother, a digging and uncovering of what exists beyond the photograph itself: the Spirit. When one passes, the Spirit does not disappear, it continues everywhere and in everything. There exists still a connection even after death. Death does not erase a person; death simply changes them.  
            Because I Live is my way of working to understand this idea of a spiritual connection. My work is a longing to be with and of Spirit, what I like to imagine is Love. The photograph is not enough when trying to remember loved ones or an event – the photo is not the person or what happened, it can never be – it is a fragmented past. I share this work to show that lives are knotted together beyond photography and memory. The ones we love never truly leave us and we never truly forget. Even when a photograph of them becomes a foreign object, we are forever connected. Death is not the end.
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