I first met Jennifer and Elmo at The Avian and Exotic Medical Center in NYC, while shooting a personal project. Jennifer is an only child, and was raised by her grandparents and her mother. When her grandpa died when she was only 23, and her mother shortly thereafter, Jennifer continued to live with, and take care of her 92 yr. old granny. She originally bought Elmo-an intelligent and engaging Cockatoo that talks, (and says her name in Spanish with a Dominican accent), to keep her granny company when she’s at work. Recently her granny passed away, and Jennifer and Elmo remain in the apartment she grew up in. Elmo likes to take naps, and here they are taking a nap together, in her granny’s bed. From the moment I met them, it was apparent they had a close knit bond.
I entered this image in Alec Soth’s contest for “this ain’t art school.” Alec Soth, in conjunction with Deichtor Hallen of Hamberg, ran a contest with the theme of “sleep” When I came across the contest, this image of Jennifer and Elmo came to mind, and I entered it on the last day. I am fond of it because for me, taking a nap with a beloved pet, is the best nap there is. To indulge in a nap with a pet- hearing them breathe, and snore, is not like taking a nap with a person. There is an understanding, an unspoken bond and connection that is beyond human comprehension.
I just found out that I have won second place, and am overjoyed. I’m overjoyed because of the good natured spirit of the contest, looking at all the entries, and for the love of the theme, which was”Sleep.” Sleep, love, eating. All the most basic of needs, that have deep meaning, ritual, and comfort in all its associations. It was a contest where placing, was akin to my memory of winning my first contest ever, where the prize was a 6 pack of orange crush that I had won by being the 6th caller into a radio station when I was in high school. Of course this contest has much more significance and purpose, but for me, Alex Soth’s work has deep meaning, context, but also many times humor and levity. And it’s humor and levity, that we need most of all.
Alex explained why he chose the images that he did, and for mine, it was Elmo the cockatoo, along with the fact that Jennifer’s curls mimic the telephone cord at the edge of the bed. Her curls and relationship to the cord, his did not occur to me as I was photographing them, but ironically, sometimes my images possess this type of irony after the fact. I find that these artistic coincidences, are really in fact probably not coincidences, but subconscious choices made deep within our psyche. It’s always a marvel, and a revelation.