I was introduced to Abraham Thacker by a director of a burlesque variety show that I was interested in photographing. What started as a look into body image in performance became a story of a young man who was beginning to understand himself as vulnerable.
It seemed this story would have been easy for me as I started to get to know Abe. But things change and there is always more underneath the surface than you realize at first.
Abe provided background information about his mental illness before I began photographing the story; however, the more we chatted, the more I noticed his questioning of his own understanding of why his first performance was important. It appeared to me that his discussion deepened from wanting to be appreciated on stage to looking for validation of who he wanted to be. And that person was more vulnerable.
What was interesting for me about this was Abe realized this at almost the same time I did. I was simply there to visually record the experience.
My most memorable moment of working on this story was when I received a phone call from Abe crying after I sent a link to the article. He let me know he couldn’t thank me enough for being someone who cared to listen to what he had to say, and that this time has affected him for the better. It was a touching confirmation to know that taking time to hear and see people’s stories can bring us closer to others and ourselves.
I set out to tell visual stories because I care about the process of life for people. Being human is a shared journey for us. Yet I feel it’s not often that we are open about what we think makes us most human. For me, it is not only about what we see, learn and understand, but also what we feel that guides our lives. I believe it’s easy to look at things at a glance and simply grasp it, but it’s a lot harder to really try to delve deeply into what affects our own understanding and place in the world.
I’ve been curious about how our own personal experiences shape our lives. The time I spent with Abe was a reminder and proof of the benefit of taking a closer look. What makes it worth it? Growth.