The instinct to continually pursue our needs in order to feel whole is a process that is never complete, at least not for long. Our identities and outlook are shaped not only by our brain chemistry but by our ongoing interaction with others. We define ourselves within groups, where we both thrive and fail.
We seek social connection in a time in which it should be easier than ever, yet is confoundingly difficult. Feeling some piece of us is missing, our searching instinct often leads us astray, failing us as we’re lured in wrong directions, to false starts and bad influences. The beacon of connection can short-circuit our judgment, leading us to misguided risks and unintended consequences.
I see this writ large in my students as I observe (and guide) their searching throughout their high school experience. Few periods in our lives are as tumultuous and transformative as this one. Each day, the sun rises and the raw human condition is laid out in front me. It can be both sad and beautiful. Tedious and hopeful. A privilege that is ultimately exhausting.
As the school year transitions to summer, so do the beings with whom I have daily engagement. My professional self transitions to my personal, while students are exchanged for my dependable muses of the invertebrate congregation. These insects, representatives of the natural world, a place (and idea) where we seek solace and restoration, are themselves searching. I witness this instinct streamlined, seemingly unfettered from what drives our own messy, often misguided behavior.
But these welcome visitors to my porch have, in fact, been drawn into my life by the “false moons” of artificial light. While we like the idea of wildlife operating with a certain purity of purpose, the messiness of humanity is seemingly inescapable. Phototaxis, the instinctual celestial navigation shared by many insects, is hijacked by a light bulb. Our attempts to bring light to darkness leads to unintended consequences.
My students follow similar patterns as the phototactic insects, coming into and out of my life regularly, bound together by the social norms they construct, their unique and collective circumstances, or simply by chance.
False Moons is a body of work that comments on our search for social connection through my perspective as a public school teacher. The images contained aim to communicate our search for both individuality and group identities, and how we’re driven by instinct, experience, and collective consciousness.
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