Venessa Monokian
Forest through the trees, Miami-01Forest through the trees, Miami-02Forest through the trees, collection of spaces- 01Forest through the trees, collection of spaces- 02Forest through the trees, collection of spaces- 03
Forest through the trees
I use my work to investigate how photography can alter one’s perception of an environment. My inquiry extends beyond the location where I shoot and involves the final display of the work. How the viewer physically interacts with the work is as much an element of the piece as is the image itself. This experience becomes a partnership between myself, the work, and the person viewing it.

Born and raised in Miami, I became really intimately aware of my natural surroundings. I can spot a gumbo-limbo or an anhinga without hesitation. But South Florida is a pretty weird place compared to any other natural environment. I had the opportunity to travel on a sponsored residency to Argentina, then to Puerto Rico, and I will soon be living between Miami and rural South Carolina. I noticed differences and similarities in all these spaces. I felt compelled to document them, but not simply to record their likenesses -- which isn't as honest, nor as fun. My current work is also very personal, because Miami is home to me, the only home I've known. This subtropical place shaped who I am, and on the precipice of big changes in my life, this work also allows me to take my home with me everywhere I go.

Normally, when you photograph, you enter into this strange state of hyper-awareness. You look at all planes of existence in front of you, and all the visual elements that are affecting your experience. I wanted to collect plants or a single tree that caught my eye. Gathering with no preconceived composition in mind and not to analyze the space, but just to exist in it.

It's more difficult than it sounds to go against years of training. After looking at the images, I took an X-Acto knife to them, hacking away at all the negative space. Then I layered image upon image till a new composition emerged. Inspired by the idiom “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” I completely changed my working habits, focusing on the details. I decided to take these words and incorporate them into the process of making this work. When assembled, they reveal the larger work and thus the larger experience.