Tyler Benjamin

I haven’t much thought about what being an “artist” means to me, except that it either seems like an unachievable pinnacle status, or that it’s really an illusion, a farcical creation, that demotivates people. I think the things that artists traditionally do (play, design, iterate, fail, express, impress, sell, convince, move, emote, connect, alienate, communicate, grapple with realities, imagine, live multiplicitous or singularly focused lives) are golden models that everyone in all walks of life should be able to live out. So everyone should be an “artist,” but I don’t want to remove the quotation marks because I think “artist” is still just a false separation.

Like many people I know, before the false expectations of a completely formed adult brain were foisted upon me, during my childhood I wrote some poetry. It mostly revolved around the minor but intense and sometimes wild notions I had about love, attraction, and romance, but I also explored some personal strife or the anguish I had been introduced to witnessing other people’s struggles. With almost no formal art or music lessons, but the desire throughout to express myself somehow, I temporarily soothed that desire in community leadership positions. In those positions, I could be performative, strategic, and activist. Eventually, I studied photojournalism in college, and through that, cultivated a novice sensibility around photography as art. Only in 2014 did I truly begin to shoot for reasons that approximate art, although I consider my photography far less creative/expressive than mimetic/documentary. I don’t see that as a bad thing, though; I think bringing pause to someone’s life by presenting light, or subjects, or composition that is otherwise obstructed in plain view is an unmatched task. Therefore, I don’t see documenting "truth" as lowly, but elevating instead. Indeed, few sensations are more powerful to me than reckoning some truth previously unnoticed.