The story behind it
by Janice Nigro
I got kicked out of the basic research system, simply put. A lot of disappointment followed, and perhaps only when I was on a beautiful island in Indonesia talking with the dive guides who could sing, play the guitar, and make jokes to me in English with single words, that I decided, actually, this is not the B plan.
It is easy when you are traveling, especially for scuba diving, to ignore what eventually will come, the end. What am I going to do when I have to leave through that departure gate in Singapore to go home, wherever that may be? In fact I had no home. A lot of furniture in storage that I would find out I had no use for after 8 years, but no home to put it in.
More important was, what was I going to do? It felt a little like when I went to Norway-ok Janice, you have to do something totally crazy otherwise why move your life to virtually another planet? Research spit me out after what I considered to be my greatest accomplishment in science. So I settled for editing scientific articles written by non-native English speaking scientists because I could work from home and therefore choose to live in any spot on the planet as long as there was the Internet.
It sounds great to work from home, but the odd thing about working from home especially if you live alone and have moved to somewhere new, is that there are not a whole lot of people to talk to each day. My crazy thing to do back on this side of the Atlantic then was to join a local farmers’ market as a crafts person partly just to meet other humans.
It was easy to start-sell my underwater photographs either as prints or as cards. But let’s face it, it is a bit of a niche thing-having fish or shrimp on your walls…if you are a grown-up. So I was not exactly sure there would be people out there who would even consider buying a small print just to send in a card. In fact, all versions of my photographs have sold-cards, prints, small and even really big. Ok so a little money, while others who are truly talented win trips back to the places where I love to take photographs.
It did not really occur to me that I was really doing anything so artistic as an underwater photographer. It is nature. Nature is perhaps the real artist, and maybe I just recognize the art in Nature. So when I started to participate in the farmers’ market, I had a hard time putting a price on photographs. Secretly, I wanted an unrealistic price in a way because when I think about it, I got the skills to do it (diving and photography) and I traveled somewhere very far to get the photograph. If you think about it, a photograph is worth like several thousand dollars…and yet I did not feel like I really had created any art.
While I was traveling, however, what was at the back of my mind, was somehow to translate my underwater photographs into something more artistic. Something I could put onto fabric and maybe even wear. I can not draw (or paint even though I try), and I do not have six children like Angelina Jolie who can all draw pictures which will then be sewn onto a dress/veil in haut couture boutique. But I did not need that because you can do anything in Photoshop. And furthermore anything that can be done in Photoshop can be printed onto fabric.
Marine life-sure it has been done before. But has anyone ever put an anemonefish on an evening bag? Clownfish and anemones are my favorite creatures to photograph underwater and many dive guides have probably been too polite to say, is that all you really want to look at? I got inspired by a photograph taken in Bunaken when I was supposed to be looking at turtles. It took me a while to get the anemonefish pattern and the colors that looked right, at least on my computer screen. After I had created a couple of bags from the other patterns I created in Photoshop, I made the anemonefish bag. It somehow just came out different, so different that I thought this one I can not give up. For a moment, I felt like a real artist because I made something that even I was pleased with.
But it was more than that. It was an odd sensation, to dream up something in your own mind, figure out technically how to do it, and then complete the project and to your own satisfaction. One of my friends has been impressed that I have considered doing things that have nothing to do with my PhD training since I returned home. I responded, in fact it is my PhD that got me here. And furthermore, science perhaps is just another version of crafting a retro clutch. Dream up something no one else has done, figure out technically how to do it, and then complete the project.
And maybe that is why I have to keep the bag. It represents a lot of travels, (including my education) leaving home, leaving behind who and what you know many times over to do something different. This is the story behind it…
©2014 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com