Jordan Davis Robles: The Nuclear Construct
This week, we will be exploring projects that use the found photograph. Today, we’ll be looking at Jordan Davis Robles’s series The Nuclear Construct.
I first met Jordan Davis Robles while I was in graduate school at East Carolina University and she was an undergraduate student. We were both in one of Angela Franks Wells’s classes exploring topics of altered images and Jordan had a way of telling such personal stories through a few images. One of my favorite images that I currently have hanging in our living room is Honey on the Kitchen Floor. The use of honeycomb and honey is indicative of her family’s ties with beekeeping, but you can feel the stickiness of the honey through the image. These new additions add Jordan’s own stories to her family’s history.
Her images explore ideas of what a “normal” family identity should be and how we all carry those familial traumas with us. Today these events exist as photographs but Jordan’s use of collage, digital manipulation, and new images based on past histories give an intimate look at the struggles our family identities can bring. The past sticks with you like honey on the jar; no matter how hard you try to get rid of it, it stays with you. These images show a new way to explore and cope with these identities.
Jordan Davis Robles is a photographic artist based in Boston, MA where she works as a Gallery Manager. Her current work focuses on family dynamics, the idea of home, and her personal history. She illustrates these idea through the practice of digital photography, alternative processes, and the use of family photos. Jordan graduated with a BFA from East Carolina University in 2018.
Follow Jordan on Instagram: @jordandavisrobles /@jordavrobles
The Nuclear Construct
Most families have a box of photos or an album tucked away, kept to remember birthdays, holidays and the like. More often than not, though the faces change, the events and the poses stay the same. Some are kept pristine and others are marked with creases and fingerprints, but what we think about and remember when we look at our own personal photos is what makes them different from everyone else’s.
When I look at my family photos, I see a family that tried to fit into the perfect 90 degree corners of images printed at a drugstore but like most we were far from that perfectly posed picture. I see the good memories: honey my grandfather dripped on the floor, an array of birthday cakes at my grandmother’s small kitchen table, and the matching dresses my sister and I wore every Easter. However, I also see the painful memories, the ones that are outside of those glossy photo edges like the cancer and dementia that consumed both of my grandfathers, my grandmother as she conformed to being a wife, mother and the role of homemaker, and my own struggle with identity.
There are worlds of images we can only see through our thoughts and memories. The Nuclear Construct delves into my own, bringing memory and reaction to the surface of generic family photos through alteration and addition of materials, as well as the creation of corresponding images that use color, metaphor and object to tell the stories of family and the pieces of them that were intentionally cropped out of the frame.
Epiphany Knedler: How did your project come about?
Jordan Davis Robles: The Nuclear Construct started as a project while I was in undergrad at ECU. I can’t remember the exact assignment requirements now but I think we were asked to physically manipulate our photos in someway, and I chose to change the meaning of family photos by altering them and pairing them with a photograph of my own. I really enjoyed the process and it grew from there. I had a lot of emotions about certain parts of my family and childhood to sort through and I found this approach really helped me express things that I hadn’t been able to previously through taking photos alone.
EK: Do you manipulate the images in any way? Why or why not?
JDR: I do physically manipulate the images but never in the same way or using the same thing twice. Each photo is manipulated in a way that relates to the story I’m trying to tell and I felt that each story needed its own vehicle to carry it.
EK: Can you tell us about your artistic practice?
JDR: I’ve always enjoyed making things but also the act of altering things that already exist. I cannot think of an item I owned during my adolescence that I didn’t eventually embellish, draw on, or alter in some way shape or form. I also do not have a singular childhood photo that was taken by me that did not meet the same fate. I think this is one reasons why the method of altering family photos for the Nuclear Construct came so easily to me. As I mentioned before, each family photo in the project is altered and each of them were done in a different way whether it be cutting part of the photo away to reveal something underneath, scratching, drilling, sewing, layering with things like honey and spices, and I even use my own hair in one of the images. All of these are scanned since some of the materials have an expiration date or simply are not viable for the long term. This part always comes first for me because the altering and the coinciding images that I take are a response to the feelings or memories that the original found photo dredges up. The whole process is honestly very cathartic.
EK: What’s your relationship to the found photo? How do you come up with stories or meanings with these images?
JDR: All of the found photos used in The Nuclear Construct are my family’s photos that come from boxes of hundreds if not thousands of photos that my mother, my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather kept. So I do have a very person connection to all of them and I, myself, am in a lot of the photos that I use. As for the stories and meanings that I come up with, each alteration and accompanying image is directly related to the content of the original found photo. I don’t generally go searching out photos of certain people, places or times and usually select a photo because of the emotion it elicits or the memory that comes to mind and then I work from that.
Epiphany Knedler is an imagemaker sharing stories of American life. Using Midwestern aesthetics, she creates images and installations exploring histories. She is based in Aberdeen, South Dakota serving as an Adjunct Instructor and freelancer. Her work has been exhibited with Lenscratch, Dek Unu Arts, F-Stop Magazine, and Photolucida Critical Mass. She is the co-founder of MidwestNice Art.
Follow Epiphany Knedler on Instagram: @epiphanysk
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
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