Archive > Twenty Works: Louden PORTFOLIO

"Balloons are merely plastic sacks full of breath. Photographs are merely pieces of paper with salt and silver on top. Both appear banal in their common-ness, and yet both are full of life." - Lesley

Visually documenting the individual is my activist approach to interrupting a world that operates on a glance. My work investigates the ordinary in a culture which fixates on the celebrities, magazine advertisements, dramatic news cycles, and endless social media scrolls to reveal an everyday individual’s story. You won’t find celebrities in my photos. You will find meaning below the surface, an anomaly amongst the familiar, or a subtle disturbance to the mainstream.

What may seem commonplace from a distance, is where I find the most interesting and fascinating of idiosyncrasies. These stories are everywhere, all around us, but we often don’t have the time or patience to find, see, hear, or contemplate them. This may also happen when reflecting on our own lives. My photographs and videos communicate stories or perspectives worth telling and serve as prompts for introspection. These are not all happy or perfect stories, but narratives that sometimes frame the “shit” as beautiful too. These scenarios represent a microcosm of the broader human triumph or struggle, highlighted to say, “look deeper.”

What in the world am I talking about? The “Evelyn: Nothing Fancy” documentary photographic and video series examines the regal life of a midwestern woman who lived on the shores of Lake Erie in a tiny apartment that you would never guess had two blue rooms and two pink rooms from the nondescript building façade. My “Traditions: Feelings & Observations” portrait and still-life series preserve peculiar and standard individual family traditions in ice, yep, in ice. Outmoded mountain life meets Silicon Valley in a view of a family’s experience living on “unCommon Ground” with their neighbors in a shared space. Individual children’s crayon drawings that portray their own personal experiences with HIV/AIDS share an adult experience they had at a much too young age in my documentary series from Southern Africa “Living in Transition: Children, HIV, and Education” series. In “mountainESS,” a young, modern adventurer is seen in her chosen princess getups, enjoying the outdoors, merging the larger question of nurture and nature into one seamless role.

Ultimately, my photographs negotiate between domesticity and oddness, the mundane and the amazing, and often present how the individual, seemingly ordinary story, can actually be a radical statement.

-Lesley Louden