I was identified as gifted and talented at the age of 7 years old, after only a few years of out-performing my peers and having my constant distraction become a discipline problem. I attended a public school that was on its last legs so to speak. I graduated in a class of 62, and two years later my school was merged with a neighboring school. The resources for an accelerated education tailored for gifted and talented peoples, including AP courses, just were not there. I did, however, have an individualized education program (IEP), which allowed me to spend weekly time outside of my elementary classes working on my own research projects. This is how I learned to learn, by doing research, writing papers, and sometimes presenting that work to others. This is how I continue to learn, and this process has also translated heavily into my art practice. Research informs the work that I create both visually and conceptually. Sometimes the “research” is direct and happens intentionally, looking feverishly through books and spending insomniac waking hours diving through the bowels of Wikipedia. Other times it comes up by chance, through a conversation with a stranger, a stand-up comedy bit, or even through the creation of the work itself. We can make everything a relevant reference point or learning moment that leads to a reference point if we try.

Today I am posting some of the more interesting historical images that I have found in thrift stores as well as in a few family photo albums that were the property of my Great Great Aunt Lena. This is the research that I have done for an as yet unnamed project whose scope I am currently unsure of. It’s a visual study of people having their picture taken in front of / with plants and trees. It’s interesting to me that this seems like a constant in old snapshots that I keep coming across. Is it about the plant or is it about the human? If it is about the human, is it because the plant makes a nice background? And because you get a better photograph outdoors with natural lighting? Or is it a two-for-one idea? Plant life and nature are readily available, it’s easy for people with little money to take a nice photograph in front of a natural background such as the bush in your front yard rather than pay someone a bunch of money for a studio portrait. This, of course, would only become evident after the film camera becomes readily available to the general public and the snapshot becomes a larger part of our lives.

This is obviously still a work in progress. I don’t often share the research that I do, but sometimes that can be the most interesting part of the project. All the little things that contribute to the creation of the whole. All of this aside, I would like to add to this post about research and archival materials that I will be starting on my Master’s this summer. I will be pursuing a Master’s of Science in Library Science with a concentration in Local and Archival Studies at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. I am very, very excited about this, and I can’t wait to see where this opportunity will take me. I also can’t wait to unearth more wild yet banal snapshots of people with plants.

Lauren Lowery