The Deconstructed Self photographed by Natalie Christensen

FissuresEscape HatchPermanent StainMiddle PassageUntitled Blue and OrangeWe Won’t Make it to the SummitUntitled Purple and Orange with CloudsTiniest Membrane

I created “The Deconstructed Self” after moving from the southern United States to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The move occurred at the same time that I entered mid-life and ended my career as a psychotherapist. My identity was shifting, and I began to look for a way to express this transition from “the known” to “the unknown.”

Living in a city with a carefully cultivated image made me curious about what was hidden from my view; I wanted to explore this place and photograph areas that others might see as unattractive. I found that by shooting commonplace architecture and streetscapes I could express something deeper inside me and also invite the viewer to consider the human experiences of loss, fear, desire, and loneliness. My experience as a psychotherapist gave me experience with the concept of avoidance—the very human tendency to turn away from the parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable or painful to explore. I see my photographs as an extension of this work.

These photographs are a visual expression of a desire to know something deeper through the process of decontextualizing my environment and breaking it down into its essential elements. Sometimes I get a glimpse of the sublime in these places—when I do, it feels like I have discovered gold. My photographs are strongly influenced by Lewis Baltz, Aaron Siskind, and Stephen Shore as well as the abstract expressionists and color field painters of the 1940s and 50s.

As a whole, the work is a meditation on light, color, and shadow. As a middle-aged woman, my culture challenges me daily with sophisticated messages about the meaning of my aging and the relevance of older women. How do these messages change me? How do my own beliefs about aging affect how I live? By working with these messages as a sensory experience—not my lived experience—I can see through them. By turning them into metaphors, I can disarm them.

I intentionally shoot in unattractive environments. As I dismantle my environment, or filter out the noise of my own ego—my own, internalized story of what it means to be an adult woman—I create space for something I find more real, more meaningful. And if the most mundane, forgettable places in our world can form a path to meaning, then perhaps redemption is possible anywhere.

—Natalie Christensen

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