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  • Writer's pictureAustin Harter

Healing Art: Anger and Gaslighting

Have you ever felt the heat and rage burning inside? What do you do with it?

Most people, myself included, immediately suggest finding a place for it. But where? Express it. How? Let it out. When? Ultimately, I did what I knew I shouldn't - I didn't find a place for it. Instead, I bottled it up inside, and the result was far from pretty. The ugly side of myself emerged with fire and brimstone, and I lay waste to the earth in a manner of speaking. However, I discovered I didn't have to remain in that place.

It has been an uncomfortable place for too long. I knew I needed to book the first flight outta here and figure out to get Stella's groove back. At every opportunity for redemption, I dug my heels like a stubborn mule and resisted change. Why? Habit, maybe. Perhaps, I was looking for validation from everyone but myself. While there's more to it than that, these events catalyzed much-needed evolution.

I keep an ever-expanding notebook of concepts and image ideas that are rarely produced. But I keep it anyway because you never know. But what is the purpose if they never breathe life? Ideas are only as good as their execution. So I jotted down another idea, but this time I felt different - I felt the need to try regardless of the outcome at least. Interestingly, getting naked on camera was the easiest thing to do.

Production was simple—one light with a 1/4 CTO in a softbox. I popped a grid on it to focus the light and reduce spill. The idea was to shoot for as much latitude in post as possible, knowing there would be some heavy lifting. It took no more than 30 or 40 minutes to set it up and shoot it.

A note on the creative process that I discovered. I'm impatient. I want to finish the piece quickly and move on to the next like an addict. Perhaps I was trying to be more mindful of my actions, which slowed everything down. For whatever reason, I felt more aware of the mechanics and my emotions than I had in the past. Switching camera systems this past year changed my production process for the better. It doesn't change that a golden retriever puppy is in my head with zero attention span and is very hungry. That said, I found giving myself plenty of post-production time easier. I allowed the process to guide my decisions and even forced breaks to recalibrate my brain.

At the start, I envisioned a large gas pump and hose pouring yellowish light onto my huddled body in a dingy room. However, I couldn't find the assets that worked how I wanted, and I wasn't in the mood to shoot one myself. So what else could this be? I considered my anger and frustration. What does that look like, and how does it feel? Ultimately, the final image looks nothing like what I originally designed, and I am as pleased as punch.

Sure, there are things I could tinker with and improve. But I don't need to. This is as good as it gets right now, and that's okay. I found a place for some of what I'm feeling, which gives me confidence that I have the ability to process it healthily. The final piece is where I am today, not where I'll be tomorrow. That gives me hope.

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