“I’m making photographs to break the stigma around depression and anxiety,” says Fabric Of Affliction creator Andy Maticorena Kajie
The sky hangs low, and slate clouds are barreling in above South Orange. Neighbors’ dogs are barking in unison as if they’re all in on some ancient secret. Either some poor cat’s on the run, or we’re in for a deluge.
Andy Maticorena Kajie appears on screen just as the skies let loose. He’s wearing a black T-shirt and is smoothly settled into his chair. Andy — who’s coming off his first solo show at Greenhive Studio in Union City and whose work explores the human condition from the bleak to the sublime — is a reserved guy. A small smile curves his lips as he speaks in a lilting rhythm, and a pair of retro square frames give his warm and intellectual presence a sharp finish. There’s a mellow enthusiasm about him, tempered by a bassy voice, which frees him to connect with people within worlds of darkness. In that realm, unflinching, Andy’s found his niche.
Through high school, Andy faced mental health issues, and rather than shrinking from the struggle, he mined it for his work. The darkness that pervades Fabric of Affliction, his recently exhibited series, isn’t incidental. He carefully emulsifies the foggy dream of a Brassaï night scene with the edginess of today’s existential angst, not shying away from the macabre. Often, his subjects are frozen in isolation. There’s a photo of two people on a bed, where one’s face is covered by a flowing scarf, and the other holds a bouquet of sunflowers. In another, moody and tenebristic, a scarf flows from a young man’s neck. It’s almost balletic. He titled it Noose. Intense, yes. And yet, I sense that peak Andy Maticorena Kajie that I’m to experience in our second conversation today is mountain-like. Waves of emotion run subterranean beneath the scapes. His stillness springs into full expression in pictures though, where every scene is a haunting look into the back alleys of our mind. Andy’s visual poetics show the inner world we want to forget.
He photographed much of the project with friends in New York City. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” waxes Andy, swaying his posture as rain pelts the trees outside. Though Andy grew up in New Jersey, he took a bus or train into New York regularly to make pictures, and this is where he trained his eye — taking him to School of Visual Arts over a year ago. Day by day, he’s assembling a bigger and fuller story that — if he keeps going, which he plans to — can deliver a message that every one of us feels the weight of darkness, and we can talk about it without fear or shame.
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Content warning: This article deals with suicide, depression, and anxiety
This story is part of Spotlight, a series of conversations on The Daring. Every month, our editor sits down with a leading light from the world of visual storytelling for an in-depth conversation about their creative process and most moving work.
Andy Kajie: A Narrative Photo Essay About Mental Health | The Daring
In this narrative photo essay, photographer Andy Maticorena Kajie breaks the stigma around depression and anxiety in a time when it's believed that roughly 1 in 10 people suffers from a mental health illness.