'Open House' is my senior capstone piece. A project stemming from my curiosity on human relationships. How we choose those to love and communicate with, and who we choose to practice empathy with and show our most vulnerable sides. In the span of 2 weeks, I sat down with 40 individuals, where I asked them to take me somewhere comfortable, where I then proceeded to ask them to define vulnerability and share with me a vulnerable moment.
These images were taken as a result of the conversations, some lasting 45 minutes, others two and a half hours, and the results were just overwhelming. I wrote a lot about this project, and the refined writing piece, speaking to the emotions involved with the experience can be found below, as well as the prototypes I built leading up to the final evolution of the book.
Take me wherever you're comfortable.
It’s how it all begins. Asking someone to meet at a place of their choosing somewhere they feel comfortable. ‘Open House’ is a collection of moments, acts of vulnerability and presence. Moments and places in which I was given permission to enter, to engage and discuss. To be present and deliberate about what it means to be vulnerable. Bringing nothing but my body and a camera, I take nothing away from the moment but a photograph to preserve the memory. A collection of different races, genders, sexualities, childhoods, morals, and opinions to be heard, understood, loved. A new blossoming relationship and a week of my life in which I have never felt more emotionally engaged. Giving parts of myself to 40 individuals over the course of 37 sessions. Gaining new perspectives, forming fresh relationships, and understanding a better way in how we can start to take care of each other, and take care of ourselves.
The most common location was naturally a bedroom, as we have some of our most intimate and raw moments in these spaces. Sometimes though, space was ‘definitely not a bedroom’ as a space that demands our most vulnerable physical form at times can also leave us feeling broken, and as a result, space can become tainted, and lose its comfortability. In its stead, there are walks we take, locations we visit, or in certain moments in the company of those in which we feel at ease. In other people, we can find a home. We can find comfort.
How do you define vulnerability?
This first level serves as a platform for what comes next, a sit-down conversation in which the question ‘How do you define vulnerability?’ is asked, followed by another question asking for a moment in which they felt this.
When prompted for a definition, I never once heard an answer repeat itself. It's been defined as; the purest form of love, an internal conversation, being your truest self, walking out the door, allowing someone to see you for who you are in the most unkempt authentic way, being at peace with your flaws and the flaws in others, leaving the door open, a feeling inside, not so much an action but a course of emotions, a framing to be embedded in everything you do every action you take, giving yourself to something completely and wholeheartedly.
I have left each moment kind of welling up and feeling full. People I know personally and those I don’t, opening up to me about the different facets of vulnerability they’ve faced. Leaving each conversation without recording or scribing, these moments exist in the moment they were conceived, not to be taken away and delivered to a reader. Keeping their stories inside of myself, feeling more and more full, not knowing the cup could hold this much water.
To be confined in takes a lot for someone to allow a friend, let alone a stranger, to see that part of you. To be in a space in which you don’t have to hold back, to be at ease and to put your trust in someone. It makes you feel like you're worth something, that you hold significance in existence. That you matter. There are moments in which the wall comes down when the door opens up, and you can see it. Their eyes turn a shade lighter, they begin to glow and a sense of comfortability makes itself known. Space is made in which neither individual has to hold back their voice. They are both being heard, being understood, and being present. They are there to each other. It makes you feel like you're worth something. That you matter, that your flaws are not as powerful as you thought, that those parts of you that you hate, are not as potent as you believed, that they will not consume you, you will not drown in them, instead, you learn to float. You can manage them because someone else can see them and will still love you, and being loved, despite the parts of you in which you try so hard to hide, makes you feel whole, and to love with your whole self, good and bad, is the key to loving wholeheartedly.
When considering vulnerability, it can function a lot like a home. You leave the doors and windows open to let those in that could bring warmth and love into your life, but being fully aware that there are those out there who will choose to take the open door for granted and leave you broken, wanting to close the door forever. Closing the door can be a safe option. You prevent yourself from getting hurt, from feeling embarrassed or shamed, you do your best to make sure you never feel broken again. In doing so though, by selectively preventing these negative emotions, you will also be preventing the possibility of joy, feelings of happiness and creativity from surfacing in tandem. One cannot come without the other and we have to learn to be okay with that. Without sadness we can never know what it feels like to experience joy, never having heartbreak is never actually knowing what it’s like to be loved. Balance is important and it's a part of the human experience for we can not exist without our flaws, but instead of hating them and striving to remove them, instead be okay with them, exist as an imperfect being and relish in your broken parts and misshapen corners, they make you who you are, a complex individual with a story, a heart, and someone who deserves to feel loved.