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I Am Jolie
By Jolie Clifford
Dec 12, 2010

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© Jolie Clifford
I grew up in the Republican suburbs of Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island where the norm was going sailing every weekend. Growing up in this town I never felt like I belonged. The pretty land that I lived on could never compensate for all the people that walked around with an undeserved sense of entitlement. Identity was an issue in this town, you were either preppy or criticized for not being the same. Changing who I was wasn't an option. I never thought that if I took out some of my piercings and wore lighter colors, I would get treated a little nicer. That thought didn't occur to me. I only longed for the day I would move to NYC and be free at last to express myself.
© Jolie Clifford

Photography was something I played around with naturally since I am a product of the social networking generation. At first I wasn't concerned about the esoteric meaning of my photos, I was striving for aesthetic excellence. I wasn't that deep or thoughtful, and hardly emotionally attached. I only wanted to create something that could fit into a magazine or on a gallery wall. It wasn't that I didn't have any emotional substance to contribute to my work, it was just not the right time for it to be placed in my images... my belligerent behavior usually got all of my frustrations out, being a teenager.
© Jolie Clifford

I was always worried about my future, and I still am, but I would work myself up thinking about how I'm not going to make it. In some ways the thought of failing as an adult was my motivation to get going with my new found talent. My passion to succeed was profound and I promised everyone that I would make it doing this. That's the magic of being young, the thought that you can do whatever you want and go as far as you want. "You can do anything you want to in life," they would tell me. Really? Anything? I had a real positive energy about the whole thing, which was something new for me. Being positive was never my strong point, but when I talked about my photography, I really felt it.
© Jolie Clifford

Eventually, I made it out of the grips of Cold Spring Harbor and moved to Manhattan to attend the School of Visual Arts. I even picked up a couple of scholarships. Now that I have dedicated myself to four years in art school, I needed something more than just an aesthetically pleasing image to get by. Honestly, I think most of art school is bullshit. But I did end up having an affair with my photos, putting myself in them physically and emotionally. I started out using myself in my images, for convenience purposes. I didn't think the photos were about me, clearly I was mistaken. I found a pattern. My images seemed cinematic and macabre-esque. I was more interested in what were laying in the shadows than in the light. Mystery intrigued me and so did capturing in-between realities. I ended up photographing the world inside my head. I was drawn to the works of Francesca Woodman and Deborah Turbeville. I found a sense of feminine anguish and a play on identity. Their work attracted me emotionally and visually.
© Jolie Clifford

My motivation turned into the need to relieve myself of whatever was holding me back. I don't make a photograph unless a certain emotion is being evoked. Photography has become a sense of art therapy for me. I need to replicate the exact emotion that I'm feeling and get it out of my system. This makes my work more universal when derived straight from my emotional extremities. However, probably not the most lucrative process.
© Jolie Clifford

Now I'm in my third year and graduation seems to be creeping up on me. I wish I could say the passion to succeed is still as strong as it was when I first started out, but school has drained me, and in a way, may have made me a bit jaded to the art world. As much as I refuse it, the fear is still there. I try not to let it be my main motivation to succeed, but it is defiantly a contributing factor. I want so badly to hit the streets running and to make it, but in reality that comes down to how I'm feeling right now. How motivated am I really? The questions are, when will mom and dad cut me off and how will I survive on my own? This lingers constantly in the back of my head. I'm thoroughly impressed with people who have a career that they're happy with. It's all I want. This and a little recognition would be nice too.
© Jolie Clifford

Showing my photos is a sense of self liberation. When I present the images of my "therapy session," it's like I'm putting myself out there on the table. I'm owning myself and who I am. I'm proud of what I have produced. Without all the crap I went through in my past, I wouldn't have been able to create such things. I guess I have Cold Spring Harbor to thank for that.

Jolie's Website


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