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  • Writer's pictureShawn Griffin

The Lost Thesis

This post is late...

It's quite ironic that this be the first "late" blog post that I make, as I'm trying to discuss an unfinished body of work that I lost momentum in and never finished... I suppose that I also lost momentum in writing about losing momentum and fell into a spiral of more immediate work, cafe catch-ups, and Netflix that I prioritized over this...

Which was the same combination of distractions that led me to realize I should abandon this project in the first place.

As an overview... if you knew me back in 2014 then everyone and your mom knew about my Church of Fashion thesis project... mostly... because I wouldn't shut up about it or stop throwing it at every exhibition that came through town. If you didn't know about it... I'll shamelessly throw it again here:

What many don't remember was that The Church of Fashion was not my initial thesis project... For the first 3 quarters of my final MFA year, I attempted to come up with a project dealing with cultural identity vs cultural heritage in an obnoxiously large 4ft x 4ft Plexiglas optical illusion pyramid.

After spending waaaaay too much money on plexiglass fabrication, lugging giant pyramids on my back Altas style through the streets of Hong Kong, getting told it didn't make sense, re-trying the project using shards of broken mirrors hanging from the commons hallway of my campus (with obvious, workplace safety violation related results), and being tweeted at that by strangers that I was "too much of a white male to do a project about this", I lost momentum, lost motivation, and eventually abandoned the concept for something better.

However, in the process of creating this project, I only created one pyramid... when there was supposed to be an entire gallery filled with them. This means that I now had a collection of random portraits of shirtless people and no purpose behind it. So, I did what any photographer does with a lost project and stored it deep within an old hard drive in an unsortable mash of file names such as final.psd, facefinal.psd, facefinafinal.psd, and facefinalfinal1.psd.

It wasn't until I dusted off the old hard drive in an attempt to look for a different, old project that I found this file of half-edited mystery portraits. It was quite jarring to think that I had placed a project that spanned 3/4s a year in the recesses of my mind, but even more jarring to think of other smaller projects that I had worked on and put forth many many hours that never saw recognition or even full completion that I don't even remember doing. It caused me to go into a sort of artists rude awakening cum quarter-life crisis. How many of these projects had there been? Did anyone else remember me doing this project? Is my work actually impactful? Should I buy a Corvette?

"Did anyone else remember me doing this project?"

This was a question that caused me to pause just short of a poor investment in a Chevrolet. I knew everyone who sat for this series. Did they remember sitting for it? What does that say about them? What does that say about us?

All of these models were friends of mine during my thesis. Some of them, I've grown closer with since shooting them. Some of them, further apart. Some of them, I've lost complete contact with. It took me out of the initial cross-cultural- art school heavy direction of the initial project concept and into a more personal overview of my connections with people and why I choose to photograph them.

This was a concept that I shot long before beginning my later larger and ongoing project Connecting in Hong Kong (shameless plug: #connectinginhongkong now on Instagram) but created the same kind of overview of people who had impacted my life and that I chose to shoot for a reason at that time. Even if it wasn't the initial intention of the project, going through an old project on my hard drive gave a very similar impact of going through an old vacation scrapbook. It rekindled memories and brought up emotions that weren't initially experienced during the trip, but that subconsciously stuck with me long after.

In a sense, it showed me that deleting old and seemingly obsolete projects was the equivalent of burning old scrapbooks. Not everything in them is perfect, but sometimes the imperfect or unfinished projects can have a bigger impact than the ones that are actually paying your rent.

Open your forgotten "final.jpg"s. You may be blissfully surprised.

And you may even re-start a project... like what will be the topic of my next blog post (OMG is that a teaser?!?)

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