the prufrock project
Sophomore year of high school, I remember walking into Creative Writing class one day and Dr. Brown simply opened up a huge poetry anthology and started to read: "Let us go then, you and I," she started, a slow grin spreading across her face. This was magic and she knew it. "When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table."
I was transfixed.
For the next eight minutes, she took on the voice of a man consumed with regret and uncertainty, taking us on a haunting journey through "certain half-deserted streets" and "chambers of the sea." I listened, mouth falling open at the beauty of the language, and I fell in love with those words. Since that afternoon, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot has been my favorite poem and bits and pieces of my work throughout the years have drawn inspiration from the poem.
Four years later and I decided to do an independent study to create a photo series based around the monologue. It was about time that I paid homage to the poem properly.
This series is comprised of manipulated 35mm film prints that are visualizations of Prufrock's mind—and mine as well. In the endless hours experimenting in the darkroom, I found myself sharing in his obsession and destruction and paranoia in ways that surprised me.
The pictures speak for us more than my words can.
In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, the central character comes to the frightening realization that he has lived a lifetime of utter inconsequence and struggles with his inability to make his life meaningful. "Do I dare disturb the universe?" Prufrock asks himself in his tortured monologue, evoking his desperate yearning to do something of meaning after a lifetime of superficiality. His insecurities and indecision trap him in a state of paralysis where he continues to overanalyze his existence and immerse himself in his fantasies.
This project is an exploration of Prufrock's fragmented psyche through a series of manipulated photographs. These prints, products of a “magic lantern [throwing] the nerves in patterns on a screen”, are a combination of physical processes that are situated in reality and images that exist in my mind, evoking the magic realism of the poem. The alternative darkroom processes that I explored through the course of the semester act as a representation of Prufrock’s mind: an omnipresent, obsessive, destructive force that renders him incapable participating fully in the reality of the modern world. Through the project, the obsessive processes involved in the creation of each image—the burning, the threads, the hours of darkroom processing—became an extension of my mind as well.