2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Honorable Mention: Will Harris
It is with great excitement that we honor Will Harris, Lesley University College of Art and Design, MFA in Photography & Integrated Media – 2019, with an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Lenscratch Student Awards. Thank you to our sponsors and to our jurors Aline Smithson, Brennan Booker, Daniel George, Julia Bennett, Drew Nikonowicz, Sarah Stankey and Shawn Bush.
2019 Lenscratch Student Prize Honorable Mention, Will Harris’ introspective series Evelyn Beckett is an intimate and personal investigation into the confusion and heartache that dementia takes on an individual and family unit. Will provides a glimpse into the mind of his grandmother Evelyn Beckett, a woman that has been battling the condition for over ten years. By fabricating the pieces of her persona that have been lost over time, Harris conflates history and fiction while simultaneously preserving his own family history that Evelyn is the last owner of. He juxtaposes his own photographs alongside the archive of her life which are often deconstructed and reconstructed, as a means of reaching some version of familial historical truth. The resulting images from Harris’ process of reconstruction are completely new, showing how haunting and beautiful that process can be in understanding one’s own personal history.
Will Harris (b. 1990) is an emerging visual artist currently living in Boston, MA. His work deals with memory, history, identity, time, and place. He mostly uses photography as his medium but he also utilizes audio and computer generated images. Will holds his BFA in Photography from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA and is currently working on his MFA in Photography and Integrated Media at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.
In this work I confront the complexities of my Nana, Evelyn Beckett’s dementia, by fabricating the pieces that have gone missing. Within my Nana’s mind, history and fiction collide, creating something strangely new, haunting and at times painfully beautiful. Ten years ago was now ten minutes ago. There were no seasons; the clocks stood still. My grandmother was both lost and reborn. Fragments of the person I used to know would come to me now and then, but she was no longer my Nana and there was no one to hold our familial history together. Evelyn Beckett was the gatekeeper, and she left her post. A new relationship began; once her grandson, I became an old friend. My mother, her only child, ultimately became a caregiver. Although I felt a profound loss, I also had a sense of a new friend. As we mined the archive of her life, I began to reconstruct and deconstruct all that was known to be true in an unconscious collaboration with Evelyn. In concert with her conflation and obfuscation, I also slide across media; as an artist, I invent, suggest and embrace possibility.
Congratulations on your Lenscratch Student Prize! What’s next for you? What are you thinking about and working on?
I just finished up grad school and moved back to Philadelphia. I inherited a my Nana’s home and I currently renovating it with plans to live here for a very long time. I am continuing to work on my project Evelyn Beckett with the plans to make a book. I am also work on developing a VR experience that is part of this project. This VR piece has to do with a fictional place created in my Nana’s mind due to her dementia. Living in my Nana’s home I am thinking a lot about hauntology and what it means to live in a space that carries so much familial history and what the future holds for me here. I am not only interested in this on a personal level but also how it affects others, who live in homes that are passed down over generations. I think that interest will affect my work in the years to come.
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography….
My parents were amateur photographers and they always had cameras around the house when I was younger. I can remember as a small child spending summer afternoons looking out into the world threw the view finder of one of their cameras. I thought it was such a strange way to see the world but it was also very familiar too. As I got older they started to give me film and that is pretty much were it started and it hasn’t stopped.
We are always considering what the next generation of photographers are thinking about in terms of their careers after graduation. Tell us what the photo world looks like from your perspective. What you need in terms of support from the photo world? How do you plan to make your mark? Have you discovered any new and innovative ways to present yourself as an artist?
From my perspective, I think that the photo world looks pretty vast with lots of possibilities. My MFA program was based in photography and integrated media and there was a lot of freedom. Along with making photographs I had the freedom and encouragement to create with other media. For example, I created audio pieces that worked hand and hand with my images and could also live on their own. I don’t believe that this freedom was limited solely to my program but is extended to all of the photo and art world…at least that’s my hope. I think that utilizing other medias is great way way to present yourself to a wider audience as an artist.
In terms of support from the photo world, I would like to see more photography specific or photography & integrated media residences. I have done a residency in the past but it wasn’t photo specific – I found that it was great opportunity to avoid the day to day doldrums, to make site specific work that you might not make elsewhere or continue to work on a project but with out any distractions. It is also a great opportunity be around other artist that you my not every normally interact with.
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2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Honorable Mention: Nick DrainJuly 28th, 2019
2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Third Place: Reuben RaddingJuly 24th, 2019