gems Wang




Documentation of places of trauma with a large-format field camera

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent a year living in my childhood home. After years on the other side of the country, I found myself disconnected from these old surroundings, uncoupled from the people and roads and buildings and parks and schools that both raised and hurt me. These photos are my way of grappling with this derealization, my way of comparing realities.

The spatial resolution of black-and-white film, especially in large format, is magnitudes higher than that of even the most advanced digital cameras available today. Therefore, I converted the bathroom and bedroom where I had spent so much of my adolescence into a darkroom. Within this temple to my past, I performed a ritual with emulsion and developer, loyally documenting reality in the highest resolution possible, hand-developing and contact-printing a mixture of small- and large-format film.

And yet, for all this work, whose reality does the emulsion capture? That of a scared child, altered by the erosion of memory and time? That of a lost college student retracing their steps? Or, perhaps, the film is documenting the experience of derealization itself, as the effects of trauma reverberate across time and realities.

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