Editorial: "I Struggle and Emerge" by Marlon William
A dirt-covered Marko Petric is photographed by Marlon William in a new story titled "I Struggle and Emerge," with hair and makeup (and dirt) by Brittany Main. More images — and the story behind them — after the jump.
Recently I had the pleasure of working with two very talented artists — the photographer Marlon William and the makeup and hair artist Brittany (Bee) Main.
To quote Brittany, "The whole thing was a very interesting experience".
Why? Well, it was very important for us to materialize Marlon's concept in a way that is truest to the very real emotion that he sought to convey. So, we agreed that—aside from actual cosmetics—Bee would use garden soil to enhance my look. Yes, you read that correctly — garden soil.
When Marlon first reached out to me with this concept, it was clear that he wanted to transcend mere aestheticism and lartpourlartism in order to tell a story. His intention for the images was to do more than just facilitate an aesthetic experience for the viewer; he wanted them to "capture human strength through the struggles we endure," and to "communicate directly with the viewer's heart and mind".
This resonated with me because I see portrait photography as much more than just the depiction of a face; I see it as a way of unveiling hidden human narratives, as well as a venue where social issues can be explored.
During the shoot, Marlon shared a bit more about his artistic background and influences.
When he moved to Washington, D.C. earlier this year, he learned that the Smithsonian American Art Museum had just put on display 146 photographs of one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century — Irving Penn. As a big fan of his work, Marlon immediately visited the exhibition titled Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty.
The title is fitting of the work of a photographer who found unexpected, often surreal, beauty in his subjects that ranged from celebrities and fashion models to indigenous peoples in remote places of the world. Penn’s unique style is characterized by its simplicity, strength, and overall technique.
Stark and simple, and with an almost documentarist aura, Marlon's own photography is reminiscent of some of Penn's work.
When it comes to the images in this series, Marlon's intention was to, “show that through all the dirt or muddiness that is cast on you, the beauty of strength and perseverance in spite of difficulty will always shine through.” This inspired the title of the series, I Struggle and Emerge, which is the English translation of the Latin phrase "luctor et emergo".
But Marlon's intention also inspired me to do a bit of introspection of my own after the shoot.
Looking back, my life has been nothing but unpredictable and full of challenges. More often than not, I thought that there is nothing I can do about the obstacles I encountered and didn’t quite understand why life would treat me so "unfairly". But one day, someone told me something that helped me see these "negative" events in an entirely different light. They said: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I've since made a commitment to myself that I would reject the "victim outlook" and start treating every challenge that life throws my way as an opportunity to grow. This mindset is not something you accomplish overnight, of course, and I still have to work on it every day. But so far, it's helped me enjoy the journey a whole lot more and be a whole lot less anxious.
Whether you believe in a higher power or not, I invite you to think about all the times you've struggled. You will notice in your life what I have noticed in mine — you always have and always will emerge. I hope this realization that you have the power in you to overcome any obstacle that comes your way empowers you to face them with a smile on your face and inspires you to make the most out of every day.
Or, as Marlon put it, “Wear your struggles with power and you will always make it through.”
For more information about Penn and his legacy, visit the Irving Penn page at Artsy.net. There you will find the artist's bio, over 120 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Penn exhibition listings. The page also includes related artists and categories, allowing you to discover more great art.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.