Bruce Bowers: Photographer, Creator, Location Manager, Editor
Erin Schaal: Photographer’s Assistant
Anastasia Green: Model
This year, 2020, is one of the most difficult that many of us have lived through. The problems that the United States faces have a lot in common with those shared by our sisters and brothers around the world. People everywhere tend to react to both physical and emotional pain in many of the same ways. Of course, cultural differences exist, but we are bound by our shared humanity. Sudden frightening assaults from a multitude of sources elicit a human response. “Anthurium, 2020: A Fever Dream”, incorporates a surrealist documentary format to express an emotional and psychological process, similar to that which millions have endured, in reaction to a public health crisis, political tension, economic hardship, social unrest, and painful levels of personal isolation.
The Anthurium is one of the longest blooming flowers in the world. It is a symbol of creativity, sexuality, longevity, fellowship, and hope. It serves as an avatar as it guides our subject, model Ana Green, through the multitude of challenges that so many of us have faced during this current year. Along with my assistant, Erin Schaal, we’ve worked together on a storyboard that I assembled about six weeks before our shoot in order to ensure that we all had a good understanding of the kinds of scenes and shooting locations that would come into play. A big challenge was to make the message accessible without getting so involved in the story that we risked losing our audience. Not only the images, but the progression and resolution of the story is suggestive and open ended. The captions are merely a guide.
I am well aware of the many outstanding photo projects that have been executed using COVID-19 as subject matter. Rather than taking a strictly documentary approach I address, by using referential symbols in each image, how one might react on a strictly personal level to the challenging events of 2020. In our current situation in America, these are bound together by a thread. It is not only a thread of events, it’s also one of feelings. Due to the current state of governance, fraught with constant lying and a lack of centralized leadership, the concept of objective truth has been relegated to a sliding scale and its effect is to confuse and divide us. The division of ideologies in America is worse now than at any time since our Civil war in the early 1860’s. This phenomenon will be a large part of the legacy of this period and may be responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and unimaginable suffering.
When these photos are viewed in sequence, they are meant to be evocative, similar to a fever dream. Every frame juxtaposes psychologically potent images. Railroad tracks can carry us far away and are symbolic of change, loss, or the fear of either. Walls are physical or emotional barriers and houses are strong symbols of both the subconscious and unconscious self. My intention is that the interaction of these elements will tell the story of the subject’s personal journey. As isolation takes hold of many of us, the repetition of events from day to day can be hypnotic. Many of us have lives that seem as if they are being lived in continuous twilight, in a dreamy loop of repetition. As a result, each of our interpretations of this essay will be different and will be born of our individual experience.
It seems evident that a crack has formed both in ourselves and in our country that time won’t fix. Through that crack, though, comes sunlight, hope, empathy, and a shared destiny. We dream. We hope. We imagine. We do these things until the day comes when we surrender to our new normal and go to work and school and visit our friends and take a role in our community. We may need to be very vigilant for quite a while. Eventually, though, a Valentine’s Day like the one that Ana faces will come, but without a multi-faceted menace waiting for us in the wings.
One day, hopefully, we’ll tell our children and our grandchildren about the great hurdles of 2020. Let’s suggest to them that they nurture the wildflower in each of them and to let it flourish and bloom and be their guide through the rough patches of life.
May the future hold them, and us, warm in the arms of Grace and keep us all in good stead.
Kindly follow the captions to accompany Ana on her journey of confusion, fear, isolation, loss, realization, and re-immergence.