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Uma Caruana-Klasson - Over 140 ways Uma is too self-aware for her own good

Uma Caruana-Klasson - Over 140 ways Uma is too self-aware for her own good

The following interview has been conducted over a series of emails between Uma Caruana-Klasson and Jasmine Farram.

Hi Uma,

Your final major project is autobiographical, was it an easy decision to make yourself the focus of your project? Has the process taught you anything?  I am also intrigued by your projects title, can you explain why you chose this? 

All the best,

Jasmine

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Hi Jasmine,

Being self-aware comes very naturally to me, however, being able to self-reflect does not. Self-reflection is an attribute that I struggle so much with, I avoid it, the process of thinking back, and maybe talking about myself can be extremely frustrating. On the other hand, without realising, all my projects are projections of myself and my feelings through photographing my family or my interactions. So, it was a natural progression to turn the camera completely on to myself, despite my habit of running away from myself. My first autobiographical project was called ‘don’t Touch Me’, a photographic book navigating my trauma timeline in search of an explanation for my feelings. Once ‘don’t Touch Me’ was over I discovered my possible Female Autism, being told by a psychiatrist that I experience reactions, not emotions. This was a revelation, but at the same time it invalidated my project and my experience of life. I was so resentful of the fact that I needed to start my process all over again, however, this difficult therapeutic step was necessary for me, as I wanted to express to myself that there was more to me than just reactions.

Therapeutic photography is a key interest of mine, reading works by: Linda Berman, Judy Weiser, Cristina Núñez and more; but through this process I realised reading about therapeutic photography is completely different to participating first hand. At the time, producing ‘Over 140 ways Uma is too self-aware for her own good’ felt like a harmful experience, however, my emotions/reactions are now clearly documented allowing me to look back at the photographs in a controlled way, they are a bitesize, manageable version of my experience. I think this is only the beginning, but so far my project has allowed me to understand myself from a new perspective, and use my knowledge on therapeutic photography to explore myself in various ways. I now understand that I experience what I believe not what others believe.

Simply the title was an impulsive scribble to label a notebook of mine. I was using the notebook to document my, at the time, 144 behaviours that I was tracking through an ‘Aspienwomen’ screen test by Tania Marshall, that I was given at the previously mentioned psychiatry review. I was, and still am obsessed with it, so the title resonated with the impulsivity of the project as well as my own confusion of my experience.

All the best,

Uma

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Hi Uma,

What has particularly resonated with me is the idea that through your series you are not only seeking to understand yourself better, but also providing a means for others to understand you. You received the news of your possible diagnosis, and potential label, and sought to define yourself in another way. That's really admirable.

You mention that you feel the diagnosis invalidated your past project, and felt like you were starting the process over again. I wonder if this is a mutual feeling for all artists exploring self portraiture and personal narratives? Once one project is compete, we look back at it with a  new perspective, having grown and experienced new things each day.

Do you always keep a notebook during projects?

All the best,

Jasmine

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Hi Jasmine,

Thank you!

I completely agree, experience is a major component on perspective. Annette Kuhn in her book, Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, sums it up well by saying “Perhaps memory offers a constantly changing perspective on the places and times through which we – individually and collectively – have been journeying? Perhaps it is only when we look back that we make a certain kind of sense of what we see?”.

I do not usually resonate with a notebook, but it is what I had to hand at the time. However, I do keep a constant sketchbook in an academic year diary, which I cannot express how important it is to my process. This diary includes every single aspect of my life, I write and stick everything I experience daily into my sketchbook, I do not hold back. The content is not the only overwhelming aspect, visually it is breaking, bursting and always spitting out secrets or random objects I’ve sellotaped in.

(I’ve included some pictures of my sketchbook from my Over 140 ways project to illustrate what I’m describing.)

Thanks again,

Uma

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Hi Uma,

I really love those images of your sketchbook, it perfectly sums up the creative process; absorbing information, forming ideas and experimenting. That notion that it is literally spilling out is really tangible.

What are your plans for the series now? Do you see yourself continuing to explore personal narratives in this way?

All the best,

Jasmine

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Hi Jasmine,

There is no set plans or goals for Over 140 ways, but it is certainly not finished. I will follow my natural desire to compare and track my self-discovery, despite a diagnosis or not. As well as continuing my therapeutic process by photographing myself and my experience, I would love to see all the images exhibited together, so I am planning to showcase them on a small scale.

At the moment I’m a little exhausted focusing so much on myself, there are so many aspects of my life that I would love to feature, but there is more to me than just me. Being honest, I am torn, I feel as if I can most confidently represent my own experience. However, there are so many stories and experiences of people that I care about that I have a connection to, but they’re not my stories to represent. So, to answer the question, I have no idea!

Thanks

Uma

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Hi Uma, 

 It's useful to have time to just be once you have come out of the other side of a project. A bit of time to focus on normal things and not have to analyse and create. Especially when it has been a personal journey. 

What are your plans now that you are graduated? Do you have any particular ambitions for the year ahead?

All the best, 

Jasmine

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Hi Jasmine,

A break has definitely been useful, but I really am itching to reach for my camera. I do think I am addicted to photography, and it doesn’t help I am so dependent on it as a way to communicate.

Graduating has been a huge confidence boost, no matter how cliché this sounds, I have the skills and knowledge of achieving what I set out to do. For the moment I am continuing my sketchbook as it is the constant I need and it allows me to review all my previous projects, letting me know what is worth carrying on or leaving for now. What I am most excited for is to find my own patterns and routine, to push my comfort levels and to discover where I fit in the photographic community. Whether down the path of phototherapy, art direction, artistic research, focus on my photography or all the above. To add to the list, I am aiming to study MFA Photography at the University of Gothenburg. I have a large amount of family there and I am so drawn to the idea of me studying there, I feel it will open up a whole new aspect of myself I have never seen before.

Thanks

Uma

Follow Uma on Instagram @umamariack

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